The Prince of comebacks

Like in the Pak - England WC thriller, Imran Khan generated that rara avis among cricket fans even when he entered politics
Media in India was ever-profligate in showering praise on Imran Khan, coming back from retirement and showing the prowess to lead his country to be world champions.
Media in India was ever-profligate in showering praise on Imran Khan, coming back from retirement and showing the prowess to lead his country to be world champions.


He was never liked when he was playing against us. But in the heart of heart we all yearned to hear that sound from his bat or the whiz of his flying ball when he played against England or New Zealand. He donned the role of a superhero for kids of the 80s and 90s in their fantasies of a `unified' India and Pakistan. Unlike the case of Javed Minandad or Aquib Javed, there was no reason at all to dislike him. While we had our own Sandip Patil and Ravi Shastri, he donned a larger a playboy image and his semi-nude pictures were a big treat in newspapers and magazines then.

In 1992 when coloured jerseys were first allowed in the World Cup and Srikanth, Kapil, Shastri, Sachin, Jadeja, Azharuddin  and Srinath and team came out in very dark blue jerseys for India, the long-maned Imran led his team in green to lift the Cup. Unlike now, every name of players in the opposite camp came easy for us - Amir Shoail. Ijas Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Moin Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed, Ramiz Raja, Salim Malik and Wasim Akram. Imran Khan had come out of retirement to lead a team that was way down the ladder and lift them to the top. And Indian media was never ever stingy to praise Imran's prowess. That name - Imran Khan Niazi - got etched in the memory of cricket fans. Right hand batsman (called batter now), right-arm bowler, Imran showed his quality and was in league with the great allrounders of the time - Kapil Dev and Ian Botham.

Even after retirement, Imran seized a sizable media space here through his charity works, his love affairs, his marriages, his divorces. His entry into politics generated as much interest as that World Cup he lifted for his country. His accession to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan made us happy for no obvious reason  and when he was shown the door, we grieved, again for no reason. Pakistan's bankruptcy or heightened inflation were never  big news for us. But when 70-year-old Imran was shot during an anti-government agitation, we played it up. We never even cared to find the reason for his arrest, and yet we were as agitated as his Pakistan-Tehreek Insaf workers.

Instability has been the hallmark of governments in Pakistan. Since Independence, not one government has completed its term, including the 22nd one led by Imran. Out to give credibility to his country that it never ever had, Imran relied on his international exposure since childhood to build a corruption-free Pakistan and redo its image on the global scene. But in that political game, he ironically lost his own image.

It took little time for him to realise that his fame and individuality will not stand him in good stead to take forward his goal of extreme nationalism. The first charge against him was what many of his predecessors faced - turning out to be a pawn in the hands of the notorious military setup. Sour ties with defence chief General Khamar Javed Bhajwa led to his ouster.
But the violence, personal attack on him and now his release has suddenly made him pad his way slowly on the path of popularity. Founded in 1996, his party PTI has never ever been able to find representation in Parliament and got a fresh lease of life in 2011. Youth reeling under corruption, electricity crunch and unemployment rallied round Imran. Several non-residents gave up their jobs to come home in his support. His star-studded rallies and their massive turnout were turned to votes. But the hopes that soared high dashed in little time.

If at the age of 40 Imran could surmount all backlashes and lead his country to lift the World Cup, at 70 when he is making a resurrection attempt, we, his neighbours, light-heartedly watch  this political match.

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