MELBOURNE: Former Australian cricketer and now commentator Ian Chappel wrote a piece praising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran, both as a cricketer, social activist, and his leadership qualities.
In his article for Midday.com, Chappel recalled the time when he played with Imran Khan writing, “As a cricketer, Imran Khan was a tough competitor and when facing him you knew you were in for a contest. I played against him mostly during World Series Cricket (WSC) from 1977 to 1979, after a brief encounter in Australia’s opening contest of the 1975 World Cup. In the intervening period, Imran graduated from a medium-fast bowler into a speedster with the ability to swing the ball late. As a faster bowler, he wasn’t afraid to dig the ball in short and test the batsman’s desire to play horizontal bat shots.”
He further wrote that in the first World Series Cricket day/night encounter at the football stadium in Melbourne, he let me have a short delivery that I despatched to the mid-wicket boundary. “As I jogged to the non-striker’s end, I mentioned to Imran: “That’s what will happen if you continue to bowl that rubbish.” His head whirled around and in that deeply resonating voice he growled; “We’ll see about that.” The next bouncer, which followed immediately, was a few kmph faster and whistled past my ear as I took evasive action. I decided when it came to Imran it might be advisable to keep my thoughts to myself,” recalled Chappel.
Talking about Imran’s personality in the cricket world, the former Australian player Imran was one of the stars of World Series Cricket and established himself as a fine fast bowler — no mean feat amongst a plethora of highly talented quickies. He’d already foreshadowed this potential at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1976-77 playing for Pakistan against Australia. Imran produced a glittering performance to take 12 for 165 in the match, to help Pakistan to their first away victory over Australia and easily trump Dennis Lillee’s five wickets.
“Having developed a taste for success in Australia, Imran returned as captain in 1991-92 and guided Pakistan to their famous World Cup victory over England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He displayed his leadership skills during that tournament when a stumbling Pakistan arrived at the Western Australia Cricket Association ground to play Australia, needing a victory to remain a viable challenger in the tournament. In typically unpredictable Imran fashion he arrived at the toss that day wearing a tiger emblazoned on his T-shirt instead of the official Pakistan top. When I asked him about the significance of the T-shirt he replied; “I’ve asked my team to play like cornered tigers today.”
“And play like tigers they did in that match and for the remainder of the tournament to clinch the trophy. As Imran spoke while holding the trophy aloft, he alluded to the building of a cancer hospital in Lahore on the back of the impetus this triumph would create in Pakistan. In addition to displaying all the qualities of a great leader he’d also shown he possessed a social conscience after having enjoyed a privileged upbringing,” Chappel further added.
Talking about his social conscience, the commentator mentioned that in 1996, prior to the World Cup final in Lahore, he had the pleasure of an Imran-guided tour of the cancer hospital built in memory of his much-loved mother. “I did so in the presence of Dr Borys Mascarenhas, a noted surgeon in the USA and he was impressed with the hospital in general and in particular, the presence of the latest high-tech equipment. On that tour of the hospital, it was obvious Imran wasn’t going to slip quietly into the background and bask in the glory of his many cricketing achievements.”
He further wrote about his reaction to Imran’s decision of joining politics as he wrote: ” I must admit to some surprise when he announced he was going to enter politics with a view to becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan. Having witnessed first-hand his great leadership qualities and highly competitive nature, I didn’t doubt his ability to succeed but just wondered if a fractured political system would allow him to achieve his lofty ambitions. My other concern was that in such a volatile environment he would be putting his life in extreme danger.”
Lastly, talking about Imran’s leadership quality, Chappel wrote: “As a highly successful cricket captain Imran built his reputation as a leader who thrived on the toughest challenges. He often used a quote, “A man is judged by the quality of his opponents” and under his leadership, Pakistan were the best performing opponent of the mighty West Indies sides of that period. As captain he achieved the rare distinction of uniting the Pakistan team, which so often performed like a skilled rabble. If he can achieve the same success as Prime Minister, Pakistan and the rest of the world will be eternally grateful.”