Imran Khan elected Prime Minister of Pakistan

It is not commonplace for this column to be home to political articles, but on this occasion we can make an exception. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s greatest ever cricketer and indeed one of the world’s best, was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan on this week, unsurprisingly making him the first Prime Minister of any country to have previously played International cricket.

Following his sparkling cricket career, Khan made a move into politics when he founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 1996. The party gradually grew in popularity, and he has served as an opposition member from Mianwali for large portions of this century. 

It is not the purpose of this website nor this column to discuss political matters, so his Prime Ministerial plans will not be discussed in any great detail. In brief, however, Khan has premised large parts of his campaign on, amongst other things, fighting corruption and regional co-operation. 

During the vote counting process, there were technical problems which forced the election commission to perform a manual count. That caused some delay of the final results, and as of this point in time it is unclear whether a coalition government will need to be formed or not. Regardless, Khan himself earlier announced his victory in an address to the nation, in which he pledged to ‘run Pakistan in such a way as it has never before been run’.

As a cricketer, Khan was an uncompromising bowler and a dangerous batsman. He debuted on the Test arena in 1971, kicking off a career which would change the face of cricket in Pakistan. He didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on debut - he failed to pick up a wicket and managed just five runs before being run out - and subsequently didn’t play another International match until 1974. 

His return to the Test arena coincided with the commencement of ODI cricket, and he rapidly established himself as a dangerous player in the shorter form of the game. His Test career continued to stall, and he managed just three more Tests in 1974 after which he didn’t play until 1976 - in fairness, he was completing a degree at Oxford University at the time.

Over the ensuing decades he established himself as one of the best players in the world and almost indisputably the greatest cricket player ever produced by Pakistan. He became captain in 1982 and led the team on and off for the next ten years, with arguably his biggest cricketing achievement coming in 1992, when he led Pakistan to their first - and to this point, only - World Cup victory.

By the end of his career, Khan had developed some sort of resume. He played 88 Test matches, picking up 362 wickets at the extremely efficient average of 22.81 and the very stingy economy rate of 2.54. His bowling was what made him a champion, but his batting alone was also worthy of a place in the side - he accumulated 3807 runs in total at a very decent average of 37.69. Those numbers are impressive enough as it is, but when considering the relatively slow start he had to his career they take on a whole new shape. His final 51 tests, played over the last decade of his career, yielded the incredible averages of 50 with the bat and 19 with the ball, numbers which very few, if any, other cricketers in history could dream of even within a solitary series.

In the shorter form of the game, he played 175 matches. He managed 182 wickets in this form of the game, picking them up at an average of 26.61 and conceding just 3.89 runs per over. To go with these figures, impressive enough on their own, he also scored 3709 ODI runs at an average of 33.41 and 72.65.

On the cricket field, he became famous for his idiosyncratic run-up and deadly reverse swinging yorker. Off it, however, he also had a major impact, with many in Pakistan and indeed around the world wishing to replicate the charismatic captain. Javed Mianded, who played with Khan for a large part of his career, stated after Khan was confirmed as Pakistan’s next Prime Minister that ‘honesty sums up Imran Khan’s life’. My knowledge of politics in Pakistan is relatively limited, and obviously being a superb cricketer doesn’t necessarily make one a good politician. Hopefully, however, his tenure as Prime Minister of his country has somewhere near the profoundly positive impact that his tenure as Pakistan captain did.