Imran Khan is Ultimate Hope for Indo-Pak Amity — says Gavaskar

S.  Venkat Narayan, in Island, 21 August 2018 where the title is “Sunil Gavaskar: If “Immy” Khan’t usher in a new eram of friendship between India and Pakistan, nobody can”

Sunil Gavaskar, the Indian cricket legend, friend and rival of Imran Khan during their cricketing years, has expressed the hope that Khan will succeed in improving the strained relations between their nuclear-armed countries.  “Not just Pakistanis but the Indians also want him to take care of the problems between the two countries and bring a new zest to the relationship, for if Imran ‘Khan’t then nobody can!” Gavaskar declared in a special article published in The Times of India today.

Khan was sworn in as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister in Islamabad today. He is the first cricketer in the world to become a prime minister.

Gavaskar said Khan is the only Prime Minister of Pakistan who has come to India several times as an ordinary citizen and has interacted not only with the high society but also the man on the street who met him as a fan. “He should therefore be well aware that most Indians would want him to succeed as a Prime Minister and usher in a new era of friendship, and look forward not back.”

When Khan decided to enter the game (cricket), Gavaskar wrote, “he gave it everything and today, after tasting defeat in a couple of earlier elections. he is ready to take on the mantle of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.”

Just like in cricket, a captain is only as good as his team and so much will depend on his colleagues. “If his success as the cricket skipper is anything to go by, he will instil not just a sense of self-belief but also destiny in his ministerial and party colleagues,” the Indian legend predicted.

Gavaskar and Khan have known each other since 1971, when the Pathan was trying to qualify for Worcestershire County team in England. “He was then just a scrawny kid, a medium pacer with an open-chested action bowling in-swingers but with little or no control. By the time we played him in a Test match seven years down the road, he had filled up and was now genuinely quick. The in-swingers were still his stock deliveries, but he had also developed the one that went straight through and got batsmen out caught behind as they played inside the line anticipating the in-swinger.

He destroyed India almost single-handedly in 1982-83 taking 40 wickets and in the process ended the career of India’s best batsman of the decade, GR Viswanath. ‘Vishy’ shouldered arms to a ball way outside the off-stump and it swung so much that it almost knocked the leg-stump out.”

Khan had a vision before the 1992 World Cup started that “Pakistan would win the trophy and that’s exactly how it turned out. His belief despite Pakistan’s slow start to the tournament was unshakeable.”

Gavaskar recalled that it was in 1986, when he and Khan were having lunch at an Italian restaurant in London, that he told the Pakistani that he was planning to announce retirement at the end of the India tour of England. Khan responded: “You can’t retire now. Pakistan is coming to India next year and I want to beat India in India. If you aren’t part of that team, it won’t be the same. Come on, let’s have one last tilt against each other!”

Gavaskar wrote: “I said if the announcement of the tour wasn’t made before the final Test, I would go ahead and announce my retirement from international cricket. The tour was indeed announced in a few days. Pakistan won the last and final Test of that series after the earlier Tests were all drawn and thus beat India for the first time in India.”

He went on: “I didn’t announce my retirement at the end of the Pakistan series as I was keen on playing the MCC bi-centenary Test at Lord’s a little later. When that side was announced, there were Kapil Dev, DilipVengsarkar, Imran and Javed Miandad. Imran and I had a partnership of 182 runs and what I enjoyed was the chats we had at the end of each over when two batsmen usually come down the pitch to encourage each other.

Imran Khan and Sunil Gavaskar batting for the Rest of the World XI during the MCC Bicentenary match between Marylebone Cricket Club and Rest of the World XI at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London, 22nd August 1987. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

“People of India would want Imran to usher in a new era of friendship. That’s exactly how it was at first as we tried to assess the bowlers and the situation but as the partnership grew and settled in, Imran and I were telling each other stories from the Pakistan and Indian dressing rooms and having a laugh over it.

“Then, when he smashed a six into the MCC President’s box, I joked that this was not expected when they selected him for the game. He turned around and asked where the media box was and I said it’s too far even for you to hit there.

By that time, Gavaskar reminisced, Khan had started work on building a cancer hospital in memory of his mother, who had succumbed to the dreaded disease some years earlier. “It was while going for fund-raising all over Pakistan that he realised what an impact he could have on the Pakistani public and that’s where I believe the first germ of entering politics was sown.”

On a lighter note, Gavaskar wrote: “A few years after he retired from the game he started to lose hair at the top, and I welcomed him to the ‘Puri Club’. He looked perplexed as he asked, ‘Puri Club?’ I told him that all those who lose hair at the top have that bald spot like a puri and thus the Puri Club, but added that we both must ensure the puri does not become a paratha.

“He laughed and now you can see that he has grown his hair and it covers the puri. He has taken care of that problem. I won’t be able to attend his swearing-in ceremony but my good wishes are with him as he embarks on the greatest challenge of his life. Good luck and God bless, Immy.”

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