The Lion-Hearted Khan

Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination

A thirteen year old boy bribes a cop after being caught driving; something his chauffeur tries to stop him from doing. At home he tries to persuade his mother by saying that he had done what any boy would have done in such circumstances. His mother replies, “You are a Pathan”.

This tall Pathan went on to become the proud, fearless, charismatic leader of the Pakistan Cricket team. Imran Khan Niazi was born on 25th November 1952, having ancestral roots in the tribes from Afghanistan and Turkey, people for whom independence is more important than survival. Imran choose to play cricket at a time when it was the most popular sport in Pakistan and with a brigade of top notch cricketers in the family it was a matter of pride for him to compete. He lived in Lahore’s wooded Zaman Park, with his parents and two sisters, along with many other relatives who had settled there after the Partition of 1947. Zaman Park had an excellent playground, mostly used for playing cricket by players from 14 – 30 years of age with the same passion as seen among the supporters of an English football club. Imran, because of his somewhat mollycoddled childhood was unaware of the cricket scenario outside Zaman Park, Aitchison College and Lahore Gymkhana, as a result of which he had developed a somewhat higher opinion of himself and a certain cockiness that suffered devastating blows during his debut in England in 1972. He learnt the simple truth of life, ‘perform or perish’.

As a young cricketer Imran had great confidence in his ability as a batsman but with time he developed into one of the most lethal fast bowlers of all times. At the peak of his career in 1982, the thirty-year old Khan took over the captaincy of the Pakistani cricket team. The collywobbles Imran felt at the start of his term , almost as important as that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, can never be gauged better than from when he said, “When I became the cricket captain, I couldn’t speak to the team directly I was so shy. I had to tell the manager, I said listen can you talk to them, this is what I want to convey to the team. I mean early team meetings I use to be so shy and embarrassed I couldn’t talk to the team.” As a captain, Khan played 48 Test matches, out of which 14 were won by Pakistan, 8 lost and the rest 26 were drawn. He also played 139 ODIs, winning 77, losing 57 and ending one in a tie.