In 1982, Imran Khan was appointed 13th captain of Pakistan’s cricket team. Ten years later, on March 25, 1992 at Melbourne Cricket Ground, he capped his spectacular and stellar cricketing career by leading his country to a fairy-tale victory in the World Cup — undoubtedly the proudest moment in Pakistan’s cricket history.
On April 25, 1996, Khan founded his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Lahore. Twenty two years later and twenty six years after his legendary World Cup win, on July 25, 2018, Khan led his political party to a historic victory in the general elections to become Pakistan’s 19th prime minister.
It is important to remember this timeline as his election victory in 2018 has been mostly compared to the 1992 World Cup win whereas a more appropriate reference point is when he assumed the captaincy of Pakistan cricket team.
In other words, it is 1982 not 1992.
During his ten years as captain, Imran Khan led from the front, established himself as one of the world’s greatest all-rounders, set new records, and won the hearts and minds of cricket lovers across the globe with that fabulous and fabled leap in his run-up before approaching the wicket or his signature straight-drive.
1992 World Cup win is undoubtedly the crowning glory of his scintillating career. However, between 1985 and 1989 Pakistan, with Imran at the helm, Pakistan did not lose any of the ten series played during that period — a record no other skipper in Pakistan’s history has even come close to equaling. After 1985, Imran led his team to draw three consecutive test series against West Indies when it was regarded as the greatest and most fearsome side in cricket history — a feat no other country was able to achieve in the 1980s. He never lost a test series at home as captain and transformed a team of mediocre players into world-beaters.
Richie Benaud, famous Australian cricket captain and highly regarded commentator who perhaps saw more cricket than anyone else spanning over 50 years, included Imran Khan, the only Pakistani, in his Greatest Test XI in 2004. Another legendary cricketer and popular commentator, Geoffrey Boycott, in 2016, selected him as captain of his World XI, which did not include any Indian player. Both Sir Garfield Sobers and Imran were included in the side but Boycott preferred Imran over Sobers as the leader of his team — famously remarking that Sobers was the greatest all-rounder but Imran was a better captain.
UNDP Human Development Report 2018 reported that sixty-four per cent of Pakistan’s population is below 30 years of age, which means overwhelming majority of voters who have elected Imran Khan as a prime minister did not see him play on cricket greens. All his young voters have watched his record-breaking performances on YouTube only. Even many of his political critics try to downplay his cricketing achievements by just focusing on the last few years as a cricketer when he was past his prime and was primarily playing at a relatively advanced age to win the World Cup to raise funds for the cancer hospital.
1992 is definitely the most memorable year of his cricketing career but it was 1982, when he became captain, which can be rightly described as his annus mirabilis. He played in a total of 9 test matches during the calendar year scoring 393 runs at an average of 49.13. As a bowler, he took 62 test wickets at an unbelievable average of 13.29 claiming five wickets in an innings five times and ten wickets in a match twice. The best bowling performance of his career was during the 1982 test against Sri Lanka at Lahore when he took 8 wickets for 58 runs in an innings.
In June 1982 when Imran assumed captaincy, he narrowly lost his first test rubber to England by 2-1 with his team recording a historic win at Lords. He led his team to a convincing 3-0 whitewash against Australia at home. However, it was the 1982-83 series at home against India — whom Pakistan outplayed by 3-0 — which remains etched in the memory of all those who have followed his cricket career closely.
Imran was indisputably at the peak of his career during that series — he scored 247 runs in just five innings at an average of 61.75 including a century (117 off 121 balls) at Faisalabad. He was simply unplayable as a bowler claiming 40 wickets in the six test series at an incredibly low average of 13.95 — undoubtedly the greatest performance by any Pakistani bowler in any series.
It is 2018 now, not 1982. The crucial difference is that Imran is now leading the nation of about 200 million instead of an undisciplined cricket team of eleven players. He will have to take a fresh guard and start performing the unenviable task of what has been described by Dr Ishrat Hussain in a memorable phrase as “governing the ungovernable”.
His acceptance speech after the elections has been well-received in most quarters but now he will have to perform the Herculean task of translating all those lofty words into meaningful and decisive actions. George Washington is said to have once advised Alexander Hamilton: Winning is easy young man, governing is harder.
Khan is busy selecting his team and strategising for his first 100-days plan. In early 1993, when President Clinton was settling into his office, management guru Peter Drucker wrote six rules for a president-elect to abide by. The advice which he gave to an effective president can be followed by any leader in the world, whether president or prime minister, and is summarised as under:
“What must be done? is the first question the president must ask”. Drucker noted that the world changes between election day and the inauguration day. As a result, president-elect has to change his priorities and calibrate his plans
“Concentrate, don’t splinter yourself.” Drucker noted that there were always a dozen good answers to what needs to be done. “Yet,” he added, “unless the president makes the risky and controversial choice of only one, he will achieve nothing.”
“Don’t ever bet on a sure thing.” To put it differently, don’t let success go to your head and overstretch.
“An effective president does not micromanage.” Don’t be your own Chief Operating Officer.
“A president has no friends in the administration.” That is a rule that very few presidents have followed but Drucker considered it crucial to avoid having buddies working for him.
“Once you are elected you stop campaigning.” This, according to Drucker, was what President Harry Truman advised President-elect John F. Kennedy.
Good luck Captain! May the spirit of 1982 help you again in the most important innings of your life!