When it comes to the cricket field there is no love lost between neighbours India and Pakistan. For majority of the 1980s and ’90s, Pakistan dominated the Indian cricket team thanks to top stars like former captain and current Prime Minister Imran Khan, pace bowlers Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and batman like Javen Miandad. Current Team Indian head coach Ravi Shastri also had memorable run-ins with Pakistani counterparts and the former India all-rounder recounted once such tale involving Imran Khan in his new book – ‘Stargazing: The players in my life’.
“Imran Khan is one of the greatest captains and players the game has seen. Why I hold this view hardly needs qualification. His records speak of itself and if at all further validation is necessary, it comes from the experience of those who played with or against him,” Shastri writes about the Pakistan Prime Minister in his book.
Imran Khan turned out in 88 Tests, 126 innings and scored 3,807 runs at an average of 37.69, including six centuries and 18 fifties. His highest score was 136. As a pace bowler, he took 362 wickets in Test cricket. In Tests against India, Imran Khan picked up 94 wickets in 24 ties at an average of 24.04 with 2 ten-wicket hauls and six five-wicket hauls.
Narrating his first meeting with the former Pakistan captain, Shastri wrote, “In 1987, when I was leading the Under-25 team against Pakistan, Imran arrived late to the stadium for the match. He apologised, saying he was stuck in traffic. Fair enough, but he wanted to start bowling straight away, which I wasn’t agreeable to as this was against the rules. Sensing the umpires were vacillating, I told them to mind their own business and go by the book. Imran’s message to Wasim Akram and the other bowlers in that game was to bounce the s**t out of me.
“Sometimes later, when we were playing Pakistan in Sharjah, I suddenly got stomach cramps while batting and requested for a runner. Imran refused. We were 100 something for no loss then. I fell in a couple of deliveries. From a solid start, wickets started tumbling and we went on to lose the game chasing a modest 240-odd. Imran had not forgotten what I’d done to him earlier and paid back in kind. But while he played it real hard, he left the contest on the field. Off it, he was friendly but reserved, keeping pretty much to himself,” Shastri, who has tested COVID-19 positive in England on Sunday (September 5), writes.
“When India toured Pakistan. He was then making mark as one of the best all-rounders in cricket after a rather slow start to his career. When Pakistan came to India the next season, I made sure to get a place in the North Stand at the Wankhede Stadium. Imran’s strength was his remarkable control over swing and reverse swing. The steeply curving late swingers or ‘indippers’ as they were called then, made life hellish for batsmen,” Shastri wrote.
Former India all-rounder writes that Wasim Akram told him that Imran Khan would never give up till he succeeds in politics, ‘even if he is a hundred years old’.
“Soon after retiring, he joined politics, making little headway in the first few years. When I asked Wasim Akram on one of our commentary assignments whether Imran had made a mistake by jumping into politics, he replied, ‘If Khan sa’ab has decided on something, he will never give up, even if he is a hundred years old’,” Shastri wrote.
“A decade later and more than twenty years after entering politics, Imran Khan became prime minister of Pakistan,” he added.