Dubai: Imran Khan, who is set to be the first international cricketer to become a Prime Minister, had sharpened his skills as a leader from the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. I have been fortunate to report his matches during the eighties and nineties at Sharjah, and also talk to him on a number of occasions even after he became a politician, both during his visits to Dubai and while in Pakistan. And every time I was amazed at his leadership traits.
The dressing room at the Sharjah Stadium, during the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series, used to be next to the press box, and hence one could witness his charismatic leadership closely, more than what fans could see on their television screen. Anyone would have loved to possess the aura he had as a cricketer and hence it is no surprise that many went on to idolise him. During my first interview with pacers Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, both had remarked that they idolised Imran as their hero. But Imran wasn’t a hero just for these two; he inspired a generation of great allrounders, especially pacers.
The positive vibes he spread within the team while walking out to the field was remarkable. He got everyone to believe that they were marching out to conquer their opponents, and he led the way too through his performance with the bat and ball. This is the same confidence he has managed to generate among the masses and make them believe that he will be able to conquer the problems in Pakistan.
Imran detests being pushed down since he believes that he is meant to be a winner. In cricket, any team that tried to pull him down has felt the brunt of his killer instinct. It must be this same killer instinct that gave him the patience to persist hard for 22 years to ensure his party’s win in the election.
In his first One-day International at the Sharjah Stadium on March 22, 1985 in the Rothmans Four Nation Cup against India, his spell of 6 for 14 runs from his ten overs was one of the finest displays of immaculate pace bowling. His ability to move the ball and uproot the stumps was a treat to watch. Imran was also an embodiment of how one should behave as a cricketer. The manner in which he walked and ran up to bowl, and that smooth bowling action made cricket look graceful.
Imran was an allrounder off the field too. Post his cricketing days, he could have become anything - a cricket commentator or even a Hollywood actor! His charming looks made women swoon over him. He did not vie for any top post in the Pakistan Cricket Board but had set his eyes far ahead. It is likely that he may overhaul Pakistan cricket given that as he owes a lot to the game that has played a big role in him becoming the leader of the country. From being the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, people now see Imran as the captain of their nation.
When he captained Pakistan to their World Cup triumph in 1992, he lifted the profile of his country. Now he will be looking forward to lift the profile of his country as their Prime Minster too. Leading a squad of 15 is way different from leading a whole nation, and Imran knows the challenge is humungous.
In one of his interviews he’d once remarked: “Compromise for your dream but never compromise on your dream.” Till now he has had a dream run to success.