Rises from iconic captain to PM

Remarkably, the two phases in Khan’s life bear striking similarities. As a kid, coaches rejected him as a bowler with a wayward action while he was mocked as a failed politician initially.

Having struggled initially both as cricketer and politician, Khan went on to become Pakistan’s first and only World Cup winning cricket captain in 1992. On Saturday, following his long arduous struggle in Pakistan politics, will take over as the Prime Minister of the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.

Remarkably, the two phases in Khan’s life bear striking similarities. As a kid, coaches rejected him as a bowler with a wayward action while he was mocked as a failed politician initially.

But Khan overcame all odds with his never-say-die resilience as he won the World Cup in 1992 from a hopeless position. In politics, too, defied the big guns with his never-say-die approach to become the world’s first cricketer ever to be appointed as Prime Minister.

If he won the World Cup on his fifth appearance in cricket’s showpiece event, his success as a politician also came in his fifth election — including the one his party boycotted in 2008.

The handsome Pathan was a crowd puller in cricket, a superstar with a massive fan following among women and young people. That trend has helped him in his political career as well and the youth of the country is behind him with hopes of a change in the offing.

Intikhab Alam, Khan’s first Test captain, said his experience in cricket will help the new PM succeed in governing Pakistan. “All his traits of cricket will help him as PM,” Alam, also the manager-cum-coach of the World Cup-winning team told Dawn.

“He initially struggled with his bowling action and a lot of people rejected him as a cricketer but he worked on his action, came back strongly and the world saw how he became one of world’s best allrounders.

“He was always ready to take challenges, how he played with an injured shoulder and won the World Cup for Pakistan is metaphoric. He can do well as PM because he always thrived in challenges and the current situation of the country is full of such challenges.”

Khan wanted to follow his two cousins Javed Burki and Majid Khan into the Pakistan team. Barely 19, he made his debut as tearaway fast bowler against England in 1971. But he failed to get a wicket and was dumped out of the next 11 Tests, before returning in 1974.

Khan rose to fame with a haul of 12 wickets against Australia in the 1976 Sydney Test and, with his batting talent, was touted as one of four leading all-rounders of his era alongside England’s Ian Botham, New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee and India’s Kapil Dev.

Khan, often regarded as a born leader of men, was made captain in 1982 and led Pakistan to their first series win in India and England, both in 1987.

Five years later, at the twilight of his career, he won cricket’s biggest prize in Australia.

Ramiz Raja, one of the stars of that World Cup win, hopes Khan will lead the nation as he did on the cricket fields. “Khan used to define challenges, pick players who were up to the challenge and showed them the right direction” said Raja. “I am sure he will use these qualities as PM as well. “

Irked by allegations of biased home umpiring in international cricket, Khan floated the idea of neutral umpires which was implemented in a home Test in 1986 after initial opposition by the powers that be.

As prime minister, he is expected to reform Pakistan’s much-maligned election process. He knows what it takes to fight corruption – his slogan and objective in politics.

Win he did in July’s elections and is now ready to meet myriad of challenges his country is facing.

In 1989, he bet on his team’s win in a Sharjah tournament when he heard that several teammates had allegedly taken money to throw a match.

Khan achieved another goal after leaving cricket — building a cancer hospital in his mother’s name after 19 doctors invited for advice ruled out the project. He still built the Shaukat Khanum hospital where 75 percent of the patients are treated free of charge.

Initially hesitant to enter politics, Khan formed his own party — Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf — in 1996. No one took him seriously then the phrase “Khan’t do it” became a regular taunt.

He won a single seat in the 2002 elections but his fight for change to create a new Pakistan Khan won him many supporters and in the 2013 elections PTI emerged as the third largest party.

Khan cried foul, staged a 100-plus day sit-in and his stock rose high in the 2018 elections.

Just like in cricket, where he used to select and back his players, Khan has stuck to his colleagues in politics. While right-handed batsman Mansoor Akhtar was once Khan’s favourite despite failures, he has also stuck with Pervez Khattak despite corruption charges on the former KPK chief minister.

Khan has had his detractors, both in cricket and politics. He was accused of ball tampering by the British and of drug trafficking by mercurial teammate Qasim Umar. In politics he was accused of running a one-man show by party member Justice (retired) Wajihuddin.

But Khan has fought on which has been an admirable quality of his personality.

“In anything you do in life, you have to believe that you’re going to win,” Khan once said famously. “You can’t think ‘what if I don’t win?’ My mind doesn’t work that way, I believe I’m going to win and it’s a matter of time.

Former Australian captain-turned-commentator Ian Chappell pins hopes in PM Khan. “As captain he achieved the rare distinction of uniting the Pakistan team, which used to performed like a skilled rabble before him. If he can achieve the same success as prime minister, Pakistan and the rest of the world will be eternally grateful.” DAWN