Imran Khan was a very good cricketer – one of the quartet of the world’s finest all-rounders to have played in the 1980s – the other three being Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and of course India’s own Kapil Dev. But that was a long time ago. Today he is a Pakistani politician aspiring for a pivotal position in the country’s political cauldron. Would it not be better for him to keep his cricketing views to himself? Especially when it involves Indian cricket and its cricketers. Otherwise he might have an ‘on hand even before he gets a chance to play a decisive role in shaping Pakistan’s policies.
Imran Khan brought ultimate cricketing glory to Pakistan in 1992 by leading the team to its World Cup win in Australia. The final against England was his swansong and he chose that moment to hang his boots finally. Earlier in 1987 he had put in his papers after the disappointing defeat to Australia in the World Cup semi final. But in 1992 he did not have a General Zia ul Haq to talk him out of his retirement like he did in 1987. Moreover, at 39, Imran was beginning to carry weary limbs on his frame.
Does this give him a right to expect every cricketer to follow his script? Or rather, is he within his right to publicly run down Sachin Tendulkar by arguing that he has lost of his moment of a victorious exit by not bowing out of the ring after the World Cup win?
Giving vent to private thoughts is a practice that is best avoided. The first lesson that must be learnt by anyone stepping into the heat of politics in the Indian sub-continent – especially Pakistan – needs to learn the virtues of being circumspect.
I am sure that many Indians – both in politics and in the world of cricket would have opinions on various aspects of Imran Khan’s life. Cricketers and cricket commentators would have views on non-cricketing aspects of Khan’s life and Indian politicians would surely have an opinion or two about cricket in Pakistan. But that does not mean that those private thoughts should be made public.
To be taken seriously in India, Imran Khan has to first stop being a cricketer and project the non-cricketing part of his mind. Take a poll in India, and very few would know his views on the Indo-Pak dialogue and contentious issues like Kashmir. But everyone by now knows his views on Tendulkar’s retirement.
It is true that nothing grabs headlines these days like any talk on exit plans of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Goading them to move on is a task best left to people who are still engaged in the world of cricket. Not by those who have actually moved on – like Imran Khan.