Bygones: Imran Khan and the part he played in my downfall

WITH tongue in cheek I can safely say that Imran Khan was never my favourite cricketer.

Champions: Pakistan captain Imran Khan celebrates with team-mates after the 1992 World Cup final victory against England at MCG on March 25, 1992. Picture: Tony Feder/Allsport/Getty Images

My own cricketing ‘career’, such as it was, was effectively ended by the Pakistan all-rounder, whose glorious Test career came to a close on this day in 1992.

It was the summer of 1989, if memory serves and, if you will forgive the indulgence, your correspondent had somehow fluked his way into the final of The Cricketer magazine’s national spin bowling tournament at Lord’s.

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It was all going so well for Abdul/Adil/Shane (delete as applicable) Waters until Imran strode into the indoor school for a spot of batting practice against us 30 or so young hopefuls.

Any suggestion that Imran, by then firmly established as one of the greatest players in the game’s history, and well into his late 30s, would be inclined to take it easy against our wide-eyed collective was instantly dispelled as he proceeded to launch a T20-esque assault on us before T20 was even a twinkle in the administrators’ eyes.

Why, he biffed, bashed and bludgeoned the ball so ferociously that I can still feel the air from one straight drive as it whizzed past my forehead, the ball rising to almost decapitate the late cricket commentator Brian Johnston, who was an interested spectator in the presumed sanctuary of an upstairs gallery.

From that moment on the day rather went downhill from my point of view and someone from the MCC groundstaff won the tournament (the blighter).

The world was spared the sight of my leg-breaks and googlies, which, in fairness, would not have troubled Chaka Khan, the singer, let alone Imran Khan, the cricketer.

And what a cricketer was Imran, who is now Prime Minister of his beloved Pakistan.

In a Test career that started in 1971 against England at Edgbaston, to his final day of Test cricket on January 7, 1992 against Sri Lanka in Faisalabad, he scored 3,807 runs in 88 games at 37.69 and took 362 wickets at 22.81.

His one-day record was barely less stunning, and the now 66-year-old finished his ODI career a couple of months later in that year of 1992, famously leading Pakistan to victory in the World Cup final against England.

One of a clutch of outstanding all-rounders in the Eighties, which included the likes of England’s Ian Botham, Imran seemingly had everything – talent, brains and oodles of charisma.

An ageless heartthrob, like Pakistan cricket’s answer to Sir Cliff Richard, he led one of the finest and most compelling teams that I have seen, boasting the high skills of such as Abdul Qadir and Javed Miandad.

Imran famously captained Pakistan to their first Test series win in England in 1987, taking 10-77 in the decisive victory at Headingley, and he remains a hero to countless fans.

He has never been a man to back down in a contest, no matter how small or insignificant, as a group of youngsters at Lord’s all of 30 years ago could readily and affectionately testify.