It may sound ironic. The man who ruled Pakistan cricket with an iron hand should advocate democracy in public life. As he takes decisive steps towards becoming the most important personality in Pakistan, Imran Khan distinctly comes across as a man of amazing leadership virtues.
Imran’s career took shape on the strength of his individual brilliance in a team game. There was Imran Khan. And then there were the rest, flocking behind him, revelling in his shadow, celebrating glory that was often crafted by his charm and unmatched tenacity, always setting his own terms.
His charisma was infectious. With Imran on the field, each member of the side backed himself to be a winner. Long before he had begun his foray into politics, his prodigies, Wasim Akram, Rameez Raja, Waqar Younis acknowledged Imran as a leader of masses. His presence in the dressing room was an inspiration to anyone who dreamt big.
Imran always wanted his team to dream big. To dream big in order to effect changes in their sporting life. He was a law unto himself literally and it worked well because he got the players he wanted, raised a team that lost a World Cup winning chance at home in 1987 but wrested the next in Australia on the shoulders of this magnificent champion of champions.
Setting aside his retirement, Imran whipped his team into a formidable combination. He was strong and calm, motivating players who came to believe in themselves only because Imran believed in them. His ability to identify and exploit natural talent was legendary and Pakistan cricket prospered under his captaincy.
Players like Taufeeq Ahmed, Waqar and Basit Ali were plucked out by Imran on first sight. Abdul Qadir ruled the 22 yards because he had the support of Imran. But nothing to beat his move to summon 18-year-old Zahir Fazal for the Wills Trophy in Sharjah in 1991. Fazal flew in hours before the final against India and scored a defining 98. That was Imran Khan with an amazing and innate distinction to create match winners.
He was the captain and also the selection committee. In fact, the selectors hardly counted during his regime. He was, as some of his players would confess privately, an autocrat. But they loved this autocrat because he taught them to win. He was powerful as a player; and now as a politician, on the cusp of guiding his nation, Imran has emerged as a man who continues to write his destiny.
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