Team India head coach Ravi Shastri in his new book ‘Stargazing: The players in my life’ has rated cricketer-turned-Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan as one of the ‘greatest captains the game has ever seen’. Shastri also shared an interesting anecdote of an on-field rivalry that took place between the two in 1987.
“Imran Khan is one of the greatest captains and players the game has seen. Why I hold this view hardly needs qualification. His records speak of itself and if at all further validation is necessary, it comes from the experience of those who played with or against him,” Shastri wrote.
Khan played 88 Test matches, 126 innings and scored 3,807 runs at an average of 37.69, including six centuries and 18 fifties. His highest score was 136.
As a bowler, he took 362 wickets in Test cricket, which made him the first Pakistani and world’s fourth bowler to do so.
Shastri further said that the first time he saw Imran play was on TV in 1978.
“When India toured Pakistan. He was then making mark as one of the best all-rounders in cricket after a rather slow start to his career.
“When Pakistan came to India the next season, I made sure to get a place in the North Stand at the Wankhede Stadium. Imran’s strength was his remarkable control over swing and reverse swing. The steeply curving late swingers or ‘indippers’ as they were called then, made life hellish for batsmen,” he wrote.
Narrating his first meeting with the now Pakistan PM, Shastri wrote, “In 1987, when I was leading the Under-25 team against Pakistan, Imran arrived late to the stadium for the match. He apologised, saying he was stuck in traffic. Fair enough, but he wanted to start bowling straight away, which I wasn’t agreeable to as this was against the rules. Sensing the umpires were vacillating, I told them to mind their own business and go by the book. Imran’s message to Wasim Akram and the other bowlers in that game was to bounce the sh*t out of me.
“Sometimes later, when we were playing Pakistan in Sharjah, I suddenly got stomach cramps while batting and requested for a runner. Imran refused. We were 100 something for no loss then. I fell in a couple of deliveries. From a solid start, wickets started tumbling and we went on to lose the game chasing a modest 240-odd.
“Imran had not forgotten what I’d done to him earlier and paid back in kind. But while he played it real hard, he left the contest on the field. Off it, he was friendly but reserved, keeping pretty much to himself.”
Shastri stated many thought Imran to be “aloof and snobbish; I think he was reserved, and not one to socialise readily”.
“Among the four great all-rounders of that era, Imran was the best batsman, technically and temperamentally, according to the situation demanded,” he added.