Former Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar believes the current Pakistan team is missing that self-confidence and mad desire to win that made the Green Shirts such a formidable side under Imran Khan’s captaincy.
“What we are seeing with India versus Pakistan matches is a fact of life: Change is the only constant. India is now the Pakistan of the 90s and Pakistan the India of the 90s,” Manjrekar wrote in a column for Indian publication News18.
“When we played Pakistan in the late 80s through to the 90s, they had strong leadership. To my mind, the world hasn’t seen a better cricket captain than Imran Khan. He was self-confident, he had learnt cricket the hard way, so he was not immune to understanding the psyche of a player with limited ability, and with it the embedded insecurities.”
Imran Khan inspired them, in fact, almost brainwashed them into believing that they were better than everyone else. It helped of course that there was great, natural ability already there, more in the pace department than batting. All it needed was the right channeling and a dash of cricket sophistication. Imran took care of that aspect, said Manjrekar.
“So, the culture of the team was set by one man – Imran Khan. And anybody around him in that time was bound to be infected as that became the team culture.
“Confident and resourceful with an attitude of playing to win at all times. And in the process if you failed, Imran had your back.”
Sarfaraz Ahmed is no Imran, he is not going to take Pakistan to the next level, and to be fair blaming him for the loss at Old Trafford is silly. India was a much stronger side and there was not much Sarfaraz could do about it.
Virat Kohli is no Imran Khan. But it’s really a mix of the Virat and MS Dhoni culture that we are currently witnessing.
He pointed out that the current crop of Pakistani players are seeing uncertainty, self-doubt in the eyes of their seniors.
“For this to change, i.e. for Pakistan to be world beaters again, well, they have to hope that prodigious talent emerges from somewhere and with it emerges an amazing leader to take it on a winning path.
“That’s for winning, but to keep winning, it’s that link, that passes on the ‘winning gene’ that is important. And once that link is broken, it’s like going back in a long queue and waiting your turn again,” Manjrekar added.
Manjrekar recalled that former Pakistan cricketer Ramiz Raja told him that during the 1992 World Cup, no one but Imran Khan believed that they could win the tournament. And he kept drilling that into his team, who eventually started to feel the same way.
That was of course the mental side of it but for the dream to become a reality, Imran also had to ensure his tactics were sound. The story goes that Inzamam-ul-Haq was unwell before the semi-final against New Zealand and wasn’t keen to play. Imran told him you are playing no matter what, and now you decide how you are going to do that by talking to the team doctor. Inzamam played the innings of a lifetime to set-up Pakistan’s win.
“Under Imran, Pakistan had a great team culture…a winning culture. Today India has that culture.”
“Imran took a player by his little finger and moulded him into a world beater. When Inzamam did not perform to his expectations at No. 3 during the 1992 World Cup, Imran did not dump him, but pushed him down the order and made his life easier while batting at No. 3 himself”
“He led by example, just like Dhoni and Kohli do for India now,” Manjrekar wrote.