If a diehard English cricket fan picks the 10 greatest English cricketers of all time, there would be no place for Paul Collingwood in top 10, who is the only English captain to win an ICC trophy. Once, 25 greatest cricketers of all time were picked, Clive Lloyd was not in the list who has won 2 ODI World Cups as captain. Though Stephen Fleming has won an ICC trophy as captain but Sir Richard Hadlee is still considered as the greatest cricketer to have ever played from New Zealand. No doubt, winning a major ODI tournament is a massive achievement for any country but it’s not the only achievement that can change a cricketer from a superstar to a legend. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the achievements of an iconic cricketer are often questioned by the fans.
The iconic cricketer is none other than the legendary Imran Khan, who has won an ODI World Cup like Lloyd and who was as brilliant individual as Botham. Still, some Pakistani fans always question about his credentials. Some fans believe that Imran had achieved only 40 % of greatness before winning the World Cup and the World Cup victory made him a complete legend. The truth is that winning the World Cup was just another chapter of Imran’s greatness. It could be said that it was the best chapter but it was not the only one. Imran had definitely achieved the ultimate level of greatness way before winning the World Cup.
Some cricketers just change the dynamics of cricket and their impact as a cricketer makes them different from the others. That’s why they are called the greats. Why Imran was a legend even before winning the World Cup. We all know how his leadership won the World Cup for Pakistan, everyone knows how he polished the different young players of Pakistan, but Imran as an individual star is the debate which has been started by many cricket fans in Pakistan.
Here is an illustration of how Imran became a legend before winning the World Cup and how his performances became a landmark in the Pakistan Cricket History.
Being an ordinary player in his initial cricketing years, his breakthrough came when Pakistan registered it’s first ever test win on Australian soil as Imran ripped through the Aussies with 12 wickets at the SCG. 25 wickets in 5-test series in the Caribbean followed this. Then, the famous Karachi Test vs India, Pakistan had to chase 164 in 100 minutes and the turning point was a four and two sixes hit by Imran to Indian skipper Bishan Bedi.
Now, started the unstoppable Imran. His first player of the series award came against Windies at home, which also included his first Test hundred and a Player of the Series award against Australia in their own backyard. Imran was still hungry as he took the player of the preliminary series award in the Benson & Hedges Triangular in Australia with 211 runs & 15 wickets. Now, Imran as a captain: The world had already seen Ian Botham failing as a captain but Imran responded in style. 7 wickets in an innings at Edgbaston, then came the famous triumph at Lord’s. The decider was at Headingly Leeds, which was won by England by 3 wickets. Imran was again superb with both bat & ball, 67 not out & 46 & 8 wickets in the match were just amazing from Imran. Pakistan lost the series 2-1 but the intentions of Imran were positive. The player of the series was once again Imran Khan with 212 runs & 21 wickets. Then the Aussies were whitewashed 3-0 in the test series in Pakistan. The home series against India made Imran a true giant of the game. 40 wickets in the 6 match series and a 100 in Faisalabad gave him yet another player of the series award as Pakistan won the series 3-0.
A stress fracture in the shin kept him out of cricket for the most part of next 2 years though he played some of the matches during this period. Imran decided to play as a batsman in the 1983 WC. It was tough for Pakistan to compete without the bowling of Imran but still Pakistan qualified for the semis. Imran showed his commitment with two brilliant fifties and also scored Pakistan’s first World Cup century. Imran came back with his bowling against Sri Lanka when he took 17 wickets at home and 15 in Sri Lanka.
Then, his first major ODI title as captain: the Austral-Asia Cup. Another player of the series award in tests vs West Indies at home. This was followed by Pakistan’s first ever test series victory on Indian soil and once again Imran was player of the series. The ODI series was a cakewalk for Pakistan as Indians lost 5-1 at home. And, then he finally conquered England on the English soil as Imran not only won the series but also pocketed another player of the series award.
The tragedy of 1987 World Cup happened as Imran took 17 wickets in the Reliance World Cup but it was a sad end to a glorious cricketing career. Imran coming back from retirement and that famous drawn test series in the Caribbean as Pakistan became the first team to win a test in Caribbean since 78 and the first team to draw the series since 1973/74. Once again, Imran was the man of the series.
The famous Six-Nation triumph came in India when Imran inspired Pakistan to win the Nehru Cup title. Imran was no more a lethal bowler as he was once but the way he batted was magnificent as he took 4 Man of the match awards out of 5 victories for Pakistan in Nehru Cup. With 252 runs and 6 wickets, he was once again the player of the series. Another Austral-Asia Cup title was won by Imran led Pakistan team in 1990.
With 2 Austral-Asia Cup titles, a Six-Nation ODI tournament victory, the 5-1 series victory in India, first ever test series victories on Indian & English soil, famous drawn test series in West Indies and consistent performances as an Individual prove that Imran was a cricketer above excellence. 8 players of the series awards from 28 series were just more than exceptional as he was carrying the added burden of captaincy as well.
Another special thing about Imran was his spectacular performances all over the world. Out of his 8 player of the series awards, 5 were overseas, 4 were achieved outside Asia & 6 were achieved as captain.
At times, a complete batsman for Pakistan, a genuine fast bowler, one of the 6 greatest all rounders of all time, the captain who changed the approach of the team, Imran Khan was way ahead of some of his contemporaries.
The success in the 1992 World Cup was a milestone in the history of Pakistan cricket but for Imran it was like the 10th level of greatness as he had already achieved the 9 levels.