“If the Pakistani side had a leader they looked up to and respected like they did him, they would be a much better and more consistent team than they are now,” West Indies great Viv Richards once said of Imran Khan.
Khan was, arguably, Pakistan’s finest cricketer. A fierce competitor, his 21-year career was defined by moments where he led a talented but volatile bunch of cricketers to improbable wins.
Relegated to the sidelines after making his debut in 1971, Khan remodelled himself as a genuine fast bowler and came back to erase all doubts about his ability as an international cricketer. He would go onto become one of the greatest all-rounders in the game.
The pinnacle of his career was undoubtedly the 1992 World Cup win, where he battled through injuries to spur a young side to triumph.
As Khan turns 63 today, here’s a look at his dazzling career in headlines:
Ramiz Raja on Imran Khan’s determination to win the 92 World Cup
There was only one guy who was 100% sure, every time we won or lost any game, that we would win this World Cup. That was our captain. After a while, we thought it wasn’t possible because we had to rely on another team losing to qualify for the semifinals. And it happened that way! It was a dream come true, it was a great moment.
Geoff Boycott on Imran the leader
Any question on captaincy for me, Imran Khan is my favourite, always. Everything he did, nearly always, trying for wickets… when he had the legspinner Abdul Qadir, he really didn’t like to bowl him negatively, tried to bowl him to get wickets all the time. And quite frankly, he had to be so strong, aggressive and positive because anybody who’s having to handle a Pakistan team is going to have to act like God. That is probably the toughest job in world cricket.
Wasim Akram on learning the art of bowling from Imran Khan
I always followed his advice because I needed somebody to guide me, give me confidence for the ball I was about to bowl…aur Imran say behtar to koi bowler tha hi nahi confidence bharanay kai liyay (and there was no better bowler than Imran when you needed a confidence boost).
West Indies great Viv Richards on Imran Khan
He was one of the fiercest competitors and, no matter how well you were batting, he would always have a delivery which could come and destroy you. I respect him and his cricketing views; and if the Pakistani side had a leader they looked up to and respected like they did him, they would be a much better and more consistent team than they are now.
Aaqib Javed on how Imran Khan turned Pakistan’s fortunes at the 92 World Cup
We then went to Perth for our match against Australia. It was almost impossible for an Asian side to beat Australia at Perth but that was our day. Just before the match, Imran came into the dressing room, spoke for about 20 minutes and turned our psyche around for the rest of the tournament.
He instilled a belief in us. He had this unique quality, a quality that every leader must have: to make people believe in what he is saying.
The late Tony Greig on Imran Khan’s leadership
When Imran was captain, there was never question of anyone else being in charge. And that more than anything, won them the 1992 World Cup.
Martin Crowe on Imran Khan the all-rounder
He was the greatest all-rounder since Gary Sobers
Imran Khan on his toughest opponent, Viv Richards:
Of all the players in my time, Viv Richards stood out as the greatest. He was a complete genius. Viv was the only batsman who would attack me. No other batsman could attack me when I was at my peak.
Famous Imran Khan quotes
“I want my team to play today like a cornered tiger when it’s at its most dangerous.”
“I have always believed that one should not be scared of losing, I think that really is the key.”
“I believed in myself. I never imagined myself as just an ordinary player.”
“I handpicked that young team and for them to win the World Cup from that impossible situation was a source of such happiness to the Pakistanis. I was so proud of that team. When I retired, I left the best Pakistan team in its history. I was very disappointed that it never achieved its potential.”
Imran Khan career stats
Tests – 88
Runs – 3807
Avg – 37.69
ODIs – 175
Runs – 3709
Avg – 33.41
Tests – 362
Avg – 22.81
ODIs – 182
Avg – 26.61