A master of swing on sub-continent pitches, as one of the great all-rounders of his era alongside Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee and cricket’s poster boy, Imran Khan still holds a special place among millions of cricket fans.
Imran also came back from retirement to inspire Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1991-92 before launching his political party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf. That puts him in perfect position to talk about the challenge of breaking new ground.
Sachin Tendulkar has just ended a sensational career that kicked off on Imran territory – Karachi – in 1989. The big question on everyone’s mind is what will the Indian batting legend do next?
Imran believes it will be a huge challenge for Tendulkar to tread a new path, carrying forward the leadership he provided to Indian batting. “It’s the most difficult thing for a sportsman, who from 16 (years) onwards had nothing but one passion in life; certainly from mid 30s onwards he has to move on to another passion,” Imran told HT on the sidelines of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Tendulkar is actively involved in charity and is a nominated Rajya Sabha member. However, Imran felt it will not be easy to make a complete switchover. “It’s the most difficult thing. And Sachin is probably going to find that in the next five years, he will have to make up his mind. Is he going to spend the rest of his retirement life talking about cricket, which he can do. Or is he going to do something completely different? It’s a very difficult decision.”
Imran dismissed recent reports that a Pakistan Taliban group had warned the country’s media against praising Tendulkar. “According to them, they only warned the media for distorting what they had said.”
The former skipper did not see international cricket returning to Pakistan anytime soon. “In the current scenario, certainly in the next year, I don’t see it happening. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) can’t do anything.
“All the elected political parties want to sort this out through dialogue,” he said, adding that only dialogue with Pakistani militant groups can pave the way for peace and help international cricket return to the nation.
On corruption in sports, cricket in particular, he said, “Obviously, it’s a much bigger problem than we thought. What is the answer, I am not sure.”
He acknowledged that the influence of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and its attitude towards other boards wasn’t ideal. “It is true that the Indian board is all-powerful now. There was a time, when I started playing cricket, the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) was all-powerful and all of us were pandering to England and Australia.
“It is not very healthy if one board starts dictating terms to the cricket world because there will be a reaction to that.”
Imran urged India to resume regular cricket ties with Pakistan. The Indian board has refused to play in a neutral venue.
“I do believe India-Pakistan cricketing ties can bring in a big financial reward to both the countries. India is already the richest but if Pakistan gets extra money it will really help us develop our local cricket. And that will help us because a strong team will help international cricket.”