In comes Imran …from playing fields to political minefield

Greater Kashmir

In comes Imran
…from playing fields to political minefield

Dr. Javid Iqbal

Aug 21 2018

Recount the times when commentators across the cricket world came up repeatedly with the words ‘In comes Imran, over goes his arm’. And, then they would comment on his swinging deliveries, especially his deadly wicket taking in-swingers. With Sarfaraz Ahmad in lead and Imran a quick learner, the duo developed the reverse swing. The revelation in the cricketing world made old ball as much a problem to tackle as the new ball, perhaps more. Imran recounts an incident in West Indies, when Mushtaq Mohammad as Pakistan’s captain was surprised to note that his fast bowlers—Sarfaraz and Imran preferred to continue with old ball, instead of taking the new ball, which was due. The fast bowling duo had kept reverse swing a well-guarded secret. Eventually it took the cricketing world by storm, as and when it became known. Accused of cheating, Imran by his dare devil attitude, eventually made it acceptable to the extent of being a genuine weapon in fast bowlers armour. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis imbibed the art and Pakistan had another feared fasting bowling duo.

Apart from his fast bowling exploits, his batting abilities made him a genuine all-rounder—one in the quad of Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev. He was one-upping on the icons, given his leadership qualities. He blended a team of talented players nevertheless lacking belief in their abilities into a match winning combination by enhancing manifold their belief. Imran quotes Zaheer Abbas asking whether he really played well, after an innings of 274 against England, such was the extent of misgiving. With Imran in lead misgivings evaporated. The skipper called spade a spade against the might of Windies, the Aussies and the English with their bullish attitude. No quarters were asked, none given. Sunil Gavaskar though does not set great store on Imran as a tactician in the cricket field. He concedes though that with the chips down, Imran would take the ball and deliver to the extent of turning the game. This shows another aspect of Imran, a person who can take the bull by the horns.

Imran’s journey from playing fields to political minefield has been eventful. It is said by many, and rightly so, that just as Imran was initially ruled-out as a fast bowling talent, political pundits were dismissive of his political know-how. The pundits had a reason to be sceptical; he was as much a tearaway political poser, as he was a tearaway fast bowler in his budding years. As in cricket, he got to know the bind and blend of politics, the ropes as you call it. He had his setbacks. The calming influences followed. Popularity alone does not deliver in politics; you have to have a well-oiled political machine to convert popularity into votes in the electoral battles. As soon as the realities of politics dawned on him, he made the needed compromises, taking care to harp on his anti-corruption plank, and upgrading the social sector—education and health. The focus, as Imran says, remains on human development index.

It took Imran 22 years to reach, where he wanted to be—holding the reins of power, as the chief political executive of the country—the prime minister. The team that he leads has loads of question marks, as many were members of political parties that have brought Pakistan to the adverse plight; it is face to face with. The question remains whether Imran is able to create conditions, where his team would find it impossible to go by the old ways, and overcome corrupting influences. Imran has a daunting task ahead of him. The country remains embroiled in heavy debt, where debt-servicing is a major problem. I t has gone to the extent of incurring fresh debts in order to pay barely the interest incurred on the earlier debts. Overall the principal amount of the debts remains un-serviced. To add to the economic woes, the exports are down and spiralling oil prices are adding to the import bill. The resultant is ever increasing balance of payment problem. The 6.6 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves may not last long, and the country requires a bailout. Saudi Arabia and China have extended loans, which may not be enough for a bailout, which requires more or less 12 billion dollars.

Imran is virtually on a political minefield. His known and much propagated leadership qualities would be put to severe test. There is obvious difference between a cricket playing field and the political pitch. The stakes are much higher, and challenges much more daunting. Apart from a sticky domestic pitch, Imran has problems on the western and the eastern front. Afghanistan on the western front continues to be quagmire, and Americans want Pakistan to tame Af-Taliban. There are reports of US foreign office testing Imran’s nerve, as early as first week of September. It could be foreign secretary—Pompeo himself coming with fresh demands, if press reports are to be believed. On the eastern front, relations with India continue to be acrimonious. There are no signs of a thaw. Cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu faces a hostile media, as he dared to attend Imran’s swearing in.

Indo-Pak amity is ever a boon for people of JK state, given that across LoC, people continue to be Indian and Pakistan administered entities. Imran would be closely watched, Indian responses as well, if any hope of breaking the stalemate in ‘K’ dispute is to be expected.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]