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Imran Khan: The second coming

After years of toil and rejection in politics, it seems the people of Pakistan have once again given Imran Khan the power to lift the destiny of a nation.

cricket Updated: Jul 27, 2018 14:01 IST
Arnab Sen
Arnab Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Imran Khan,Cricket,Pakistan elections
Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), speaks to members of media after casting his vote at a polling station during the general election in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2018. (REUTERS)

“I rate the moments after the World Cup victory as the most pleasing and satisfying of my career as I had never seen the people of Pakistan so happy,” Imran Khan had said in an interview recollecting Pakistan’s most memorable moment on a cricket field.

By their late thirties, most international athletes would have hung their boots. Some even enjoy a career as a media pundit talking about their glorious past on the field. But Imran Khan Niazi is different.

Even when he broke through the ranks as a tenacious teenage fast bowler, looking to strike fear in the hearts of batsmen with his raw pace, he knew his achievements were not just for himself, but for an entire nation to cherish. So, when he was asked to come back from the cold in 1988 and lead his side again, he didn’t bat an eyelid and said yes.

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Imran Khan had seen the worst and made a comeback earlier from a career threatening injury, which had kept him out of international cricket for close to two long years. He knew what he meant to not just Pakistani cricket, but to the nation. Khan was unlike anyone the young nation had seen.

He had the swagger of a rock star, attitude of a battle hardened soldier and charm, which could give Hollywood stars a run for their money. When Imran ran in to bowl, an entire nation felt a twitch of excitement in their legs.

He was large-hearted as a cricketer, always ready to give it back to the toughest of opponents. Pakistan’s rise as a force to reckon with in Test cricket happened under the pathan’s watch. His duels with the West Indies, England and Australia in the respective opposition’s backyard are part Pakistani cricketing folklore.

Be it the decisive spell in Headingley, which gave Pakistan its maiden series win on English soil or his 11-wicket haul in Guyana which led to West Indies being conquered at home for the first time in over a decade, Imran was in a class of his own.

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What made it better was Imran’s ability to take his game a notch higher against arch rivals India. He wore his heart out while playing against the neighbours and his antics on the field provided unbridled joy to a nation hungry for recognition since a bloody partition.

But more than his prodigious talent as a cricketer, it was his ability as a leader of men, who ushered in a brand new era in Pakistani cricket, is what has been his lasting legacy. Imran Khan had the eye of a commander, picking out talent from the streets of Pakistan.

Ask Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and the likes what Imran Khan meant to them, and you would know what Pakistani cricket owes to him. It was this ability to unearth talent and let them chase their dreams on the biggest stage that helped Imran Khan realise his greatest ever dream as a cricketer.

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The Colosseum-esque Melbourne Cricket Ground was the scene of his greatest act on 25th March, 1992. He faced an old nemesis in what was Pakistan’s first ever World Cup final appearance. Imran held his own with the bat against a fired up English bowling attack, top scoring with 72 to guide his team to a competitive total.

And then the baton was handed over to his protege. Wasim Akram produced the spell of a lifetime and Pakistan were crowned world champions. Imran held aloft the glass trophy and the entire nation shed tears of joy.

Years later, this writer got a chance to speak to Akram during a series in Australia where the Pakistani great was a pundit with a well known broadcaster. During one of those casual conversations while away from the action; the writer asked - “What did Imran Khan tell you when you were a young bowler to inspire you?”

Akram had smiled and said - “Tu bas gend daal aur tez daal, baaki main dekh lunga” (You just bowl and bowl it fast, leave the rest to me). This was one great talking about another, conveying in a few words what a massive inspiration Imran Khan had been to him, and the stories are endless.

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Imran Khan knew he had a bigger role to play for his country post retirement from cricket and he decided to enter the quagmire of Pakistani politics to serve his nation in a greater capacity. After years of toil and rejection, it seems the people of Pakistan have once again given Imran the power to lift the destiny of a nation.

This is a moment that could be best described in the immortal lines of the poet WB Yeats, “Surely a revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand.”

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 11:47 IST