Educated International Cricketer Turned Politician of Pakistan
Posted on February 21st, 2021

Rohan Abeygunawardena, Nugegoda

Imran Khan, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on February 22 on a two day official visit. He will hold discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. He was also schedule to address Sri Lanka Parliament but later it was cancelled.

He was the only international cricketer to become a prime minister in the world. Born after the partition, in an affluent family in Lahore Imran completed his schooling in the Royal Grammar School of Worcester, England where he pursued cricket for the first time and excelled at it. His talent in bowling earned him a place in the Worcestershire County at a very early age. He was selected for Pakistan test team at age 18, in a 1971 Test series against England. Khan played until 1992, served as the team’s captain intermittently between 1982 and 1992. Under his leadership Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in 1992. This was Pakistan’s first and only victory in the competition. Having a beautiful free flowing bowling action he could swing the ball both ways with the new ball as well as the old.  He also mastered the reverse-swing to decimate the clueless oppositions. On the other hand he was even accused of ball-tampering, the use of foreign substances on the ball, raising the seam of the ball, and deliberate roughening of the surface to achieve the conditions for reverse-swing by force, citing the reason that there was never a law disallowing him from altering the condition of the ball. Since then law has been changed and now ball tampering is an offence.

He was also a dependable middle order batsman. In the ’92 World Cup, due to an inexperienced batting order, he promoted himself to the top of the order and played the new ball exceedingly well to reinforce his reputation as one of the most versatile and holistic all-rounders of his generation.

He played 88 tests and scored 3807 runs at an average of 37.7 and he has 6 centuries to his credit. He has also taken 362 test wickets at an average of 22.8. In ODI he scored 3709 runs in 175 matches at an average of 33.4 and taken 182 wickets at an average of 26.6. He has a very impressive strike rate of 73% in ODI.

Captain Imran Khan and his team nearly pulled out of Pakistan’s first tour of Sri Lanka in 1986. This was due to bad umpiring in the absence of Mahinda Wijesinghe’s third umpire concept or Senaka Weeraratne’s Decision Review System (DRS). Fortunately Sri Lanka’s then President J.R. Jayawrdene and Pakistan President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq intervened and saved the series. President J.R. Jayewardene called President Zia-ul-Haq to inform Your Excellency, these 22 fools in flannels trying to disrupt the good relations between our two countries. Therefore I am ordering Pakistan team to stay and get on with the game.” What Jayewardene said was true for Sri Lanka and Pakistan had a very good relationship then. Pakistan provided arms and ammunition and training to our armed forces to fight terrorism and to convert from a ceremonial outfit to professional force. Under the leadership of General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan provided moral support to our country at international forums against the adverse propaganda by India and Tamil diaspora. It was a well-known fact that India under Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s premiership provided logistic support and training for Tamil insurgents.

Prime minister Imran Khan excelled in studies as well. From 1972 to 1975, he studied Politics, Economics and Philosophy in Kebble College, Oxford. He managed the workload of international cricket simultaneously to graduate with honours at the age of 23. And hence began an extraordinary journey. Khan was awarded an honorary fellowship by the Royal College of Physicians in 2012 while serving as the Chancellor of the University of Bradford between 2005 and 2014.

In 1991, he launched a fundraising campaign to set up a cancer hospital in memory of his mother. He raised $25 million to set up the hospital in Lahore in 1994, and set up a second hospital in Peshawar in 2015.

Khan was elected Prime Minister in 2018. His immediate concern was the balance of payment crisis and the shrinking current account deficit faced by Pakistan. He tackled these problems by negotiating a bailout package from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and limiting military spending to curtail the fiscal deficit.

Khan propagated for an increase in renewable energy production with an aim to make Pakistan mostly renewable by 2030. He also initiated reforestation and expansion of national parks. He enacted policy which increased tax collection and investment. His government also instituted reforms to education and healthcare on a national and regional level respectively. Some reforms were made to Pakistan’s social safety net.

This educated international cricketer turned politician unfortunately visiting Sri Lanka at a time our own cricket team is in doldrums. Our young minister of sports should get some advice from this great all-rounder on how to revamp our cricket.

Zindabad Prime Minister Imran Khan!

Rohan Abeygunawardena,

Nugegoda.

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