Imran Khan’s comment about Sachin Tendulkar being lucky not to have faced the ferocious West Indies pace attack of the 70s and 80s is unfair, unjust and unwarranted. It was also absolutely needless of the former Pakistan captain to make such a comment while delivering a lecture on leadership at an All India Management Association function in New Delhi.
It is clear that the politician in Imran got the better of Imran the legendary cricketer. Where was the need for him to make such an unnecessary comment when he had come here for a lecture to a management association? It was totally out of place and his playing to the galleries and trying to earn media eyeballs by running down a legendary cricketer has clearly backfired going by angry reactions from cricket fans worldwide.
Imran is rightly respected as one of the finest all rounders in the game’s history and inarguably Pakistan’s greatest ever cricketer. What he did for Pakistan cricket is immeasurable. He did the most to earn a healthy respect for Pakistan in international circles through his all round feats, his leadership skills and his charismatic personality.
Pakistan cricket has over the years earned a reputation for being mercurial and that is seen even today. But as long as Imran was around, there was considerable improvement in this field and the World Cup triumph in 1992 besides series victories in India and England – which he made it clear were his objectives – was proof of his outstanding qualities as captain.
Of course he also earned the reputation of being arguably the best of the four great all rounders of his period – the others being Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee. He was also one of the pioneers when it came to advocating the appointment of neutral umpires in international cricket and it was mainly due to his efforts that Indian umpires PD Reporter and VK Ramaswamy stood in the Pakistan – West Indies Test series in 1986-87 and that English umpires John Holder and John Hampshire officiated in the India – Pakistan series three years later.
Till he became a politician, Imran enjoyed considerable respect in India and had a very good rapport with Indian players and cricket fans. Since starting his political party, he has adopted a hardliner stance towards India and never fails to make a barbed comment. But even after taking into account that Imran is these days more a politician than a cricketer, his latest dig at Tendulkar is in bad taste.
In the first place every great player of every era faces great fast bowlers and spin bowlers. In the case of great bowlers they come across great opening and middle order batsmen. If Tendulkar did not face the likes of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Colin Croft, he did tackle numerous quality fast bowlers during his 24 year long international career.
The list starts with Imran himself and continues with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Craig McDermott, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn, Shane Bond, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Brett Lee and Merv Hughes.
It is difficult to believe that someone with Tendulkar’s outstanding record against such bowlers would not have encountered even the fearsome West Indian pace quintet effectively. In any case there is no point in speculating that Tendulkar would have fared badly against the famed West Indian speedsters or saying that he was lucky that he didn’t face them as Imran has said.
For that matter one can also say that Imran was lucky that he did not have to encounter the likes of Wesley Hall and Charlie Griffith, Peter Heine and Neil Adcock, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Alan Davidson, Frank Tyson, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham and so on.
But yes, it was nice of Imran to remember about how his "good friend and poor chap Sunny Gavaskar" bore the brunt of the West Indian fast bowling attack. Gavaskar was the last word in batting technique, particularly when it came to not only encountering but scoring heavily off fast bowlers and there are many who still consider him as India's greatest batsman.
It is well known that 13 of Gavaskar’s 34 hundreds came off West Indian bowling. The break-up is seven in the Caribbean and six at home. Perhaps the first four hundreds in 1971 were notched up against bowlers who were not exactly express but then it was his first series and so many hundreds and a record 774 runs for a debutant is certainly one of the many feathers in his cap.
Five of the hundreds were scored against the famed West Indian speedsters while four were made against Norbert Philip and Sylvester Clark in one rubber in 1978-79. Both were feared bowlers particularly Clark and but for the presence of the more famous quintet they would have been regulars in the West Indian attack.