“This sort of universal appeal is a testimony to charisma. Imran Khan has it in loads. Whatever be the fate awaiting the world because of the latest happenings in Pakistan, the stage is set to welcome one of the most charismatic of leaders”
I have no claims to being a political analyst.
I do know Imran Khan was an extraordinary cricketer, one of the very best produced anywhere anytime.
I do know his final figures read 3807 runs at 37.69 and 362 wickets at 22.81, which put him way above his contemporary clutch of great all-rounders. Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee … that is quite a group to break away from. His batting numbers are superior to the rest by some distance, and as a bowler he is just a fraction of the average of the great Hadlee.
I do know that he was an enigma, an incredible phenomenon who got better and better with age. His final 51 Tests after the 1982 England tour yielded 2477 runs at 51.60 and 204 wickets at 19.90. Seldom has any cricketer matured this gracefully and profitably with age. That, in spite of recurrent injuries from critically strained hamstrings to repeated stress-fractures.
I know on the field and off, Imran Khan was a change agent extraordinaire.
Because of him, hundreds of young Pakistani lads started sporting longish hair as well as longish run-ups, and quite a few started hurling them down quick on heartbreakingly flat baked-mud wickets.
Because of him, cricket in Pakistan, the subcontinent, as well as the wider world, gathered a following like never before … including thousands of swooning ladies enchanted by the raw sex appeal with which the suave Oxford-educated Pathan went about his job.
Because of him, a nation of incredibly talented but rudderless cricketers suddenly became a major force to reckon with, holding their own against the mighty West Indians and finally winning the World Cup in 1992.
That World Cup of 1992 seemed to be touched by destiny for the icon. Imran had retired after the 1987 edition of the tournament, with the chorus of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna splitting the air from the crowded stands of Pakistan. Yet, the nation considered him indispensable. President Zia-ul-Haq asked him to continue and he did so for five more years, as a captain who finally held aloft the World Cup in 1992. Even at the age of 39, he walked in at No 3 to add his aeons of experience into the scheme of things, guiding his team to memorable victories in the semi-final and final.
I know he is considered to be the most successful captain of Pakistan, although it is a slight error of perception. The figures actually show Javed Miandad with an equal number of wins — 14 — with 6 losses to Imran’s 8. Misbah-ul-Haq won 26 of the Tests he led, although at a lower win-loss ratio. But, to the nation, he remains the one and only kaptan.
Yes, I know all that about Imran Khan. I know that while one can perhaps contest whether he is the greatest cricketer ever produced by Pakistan, however slim be the arguments against the claim, he remains without any semblance of misgiving the country’s greatest icon.
However, I also know that cricketing brilliance does not necessarily translate into success in other domains.
Even sublime cricketing leadership does not make one a political genius.
As I said at the very beginning, I am not a political analyst. And Pakistan’s politics is in any case beyond the comprehension of most analysts, however able.
I am not naïve enough to proclaim that this is the best that could happen to the political landscape of South Asia because Imran was a brilliant leader on the cricket field. It may well be the best thing to have happened to Pakistan, to South Asia or to the world. I just don’t have anything close to enough expertise or data to validate it.
Hence, the merits and demerits of his becoming the Prime Minister, the claims and counter claims of rigging in the recent election, the interesting mix of Islamic values and liberal economics in his outlook, the opportunities and threats this holds for Pakistan, South Asia, the Trump government and the rest of the world … such issues are beyond the scope of this article.
However, I do know that Imran Khan does possess something considered essential in the arsenal of a successful leader, political and otherwise. And here I will fall back on a personal anecdote I have often recounted elsewhere.
At the age of four, the wife of this writer used to collect posters of the gifted all-rounder in his prime, having lost her young heart to his charms.
Decades later, this writer’s mother, well into her sixties, could hardly control her schoolgirl like glee when she came across the veteran statesman in the Zurich Airport.
This sort of universal appeal is a testimony to charisma. Imran Khan has it in loads. Whatever be the fate awaiting the world because of the latest happenings in Pakistan, the stage is set to welcome one of the most charismatic of leaders.
It will be a stint to remember.