Legendary Imran Khan won the first World Cup for Pakistan | Sunday Observer

Legendary Imran Khan won the first World Cup for Pakistan

20 August, 2023

The legendary Imran Khan, one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders, admirably led Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Grounds. It was the first World Cup to be held in the Southern Hemisphere, and the first to include South Africa.

The 1992 World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand from February 22 to March 25, 1992 and is remembered for the controversial “rain rule.” It was the first to feature coloured player clothing, white cricket balls and black sight screens, with several matches being played under floodlights.

Imran Khan holds as a captain the world record for taking most wickets, best bowling strike rate and best bowling average in Tests, and best bowling figures (8 wickets for 60 runs) in a Test innings, and also most five-wicket hauls (6) in a Test innings in wins. Khan served as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan from August 2018 until April 2022.

Early Life and Family

Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi was born in Lahore on October 5, 1952. He is the only son of Ikramullah Khan Niazi, a civil engineer, and his wife Shaukat Khanum, and has four sisters. Khan’s maternal family has produced several cricketers, who have represented Pakistan, such as his cousins Javed Burki and Majid Khan.

A quiet and shy boy in his youth, Khan grew up with his sisters in relatively affluent, upper middle-class circumstances and received a privileged education. He was educated at the Aitchison College and Cathedral School in Lahore, and then the Royal Grammar School Worcester in England, where he excelled at cricket.

In 1972, he enrolled in Keble College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating in 1975. An enthusiast for college cricket at Keble, Paul Hayes, was instrumental in securing the admission of Khan.

Cricket Career

Khan made his first debut at the age of 16 in Lahore. By the start of the 1970s, he was playing for his home teams of Lahore A (1969-70), Lahore B (1969-70), Lahore Greens (1970-71) and, eventually, Lahore (1970-71). Khan was part of the University of Oxford’s Blues Cricket team during the 1973-1975 seasons.

He played English county cricket from 1971 to 1976 for Worcestershire. During this decade, other teams represented by Khan included Dawood Industries (1975-1976) and Pakistan International Airlines (1975-1976 to 1980-1981). From 1983 to 1988, he played for Sussex.

Khan made his Test cricket debut against England in June 1971 at Edgbaston. Three years later, in August 1974, he debuted in the One Day International (ODI) match, once again playing against England at Trent Bridge for the Prudential Trophy.

After graduating from Oxford and finishing his tenure at Worcestershire, he returned to Pakistan in 1976 and secured a permanent place on his native national team starting from the 1976-1977 season, during which they faced New Zealand and Australia.

Following the Australian series, he toured the West Indies, where he met Tony Greig, who signed him up for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. His credentials as one of the fastest bowlers in the world started to become established when he finished third at 139.7 km/h in a fast-bowling contest at Perth in 1978, behind Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding, but ahead of Dennis Lillee, Garth Le Roux and Andy Roberts.

During the late 1970s, Khan was one of the pioneers of the reverse swing bowling technique. He imparted this trick to the bowling duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, who mastered and popularised this art in later years.

As a bowler, Khan initially bowled with a relatively chest-on action, at medium-pace. However, he worked hard to remodel his action to a more classical type, and to strengthen his body, to enable fast bowling. Khan attained his prime as a fast bowler in January 1980 till 1988, when he became out and out fast bowler.

During this span Imran picked 236 test wickets at 17.77 apiece with 18 five-wicket hauls and 5 ten-wicket hauls. His bowling average and strike rate were better than Richard Hadlee (19.03), Malcolm Marshall (20.20), Dennis Lillee (24.07), Joel Garner (20.62) and Michael Holding (23.68). In January 1983, playing against India, he attained a Test bowling rating of 922 points. Although calculated retrospectively ICC player ratings did not exist at the time, Khan’s form and performance during this period ranks third in the ICC’s All-Time Test Bowling Rankings.

Khan achieved the all-rounder’s triple (securing 3000 runs and 300 wickets) in 75 Tests, the second-fastest record behind Ian Botham’s 72. He also has the second-highest all-time batting average of 61.86 for a Test batsman playing at position 6 in the batting order. He played his last Test match for Pakistan in January 1992, against Sri Lanka at Faisalabad.

Khan retired permanently from cricket six months after his last ODI, the historic 1992 World Cup final against England in Melbourne, Australia. He ended his career with 88 Test matches, 126 innings and scored 3807 runs at an average of 37.69, including six centuries and 18 fifties. His highest score was 136.

As a bowler, he took 362 wickets in Test cricket, which made him the first Pakistani and world’s fourth bowler to do so. In ODIs, he played 175 matches and scored 3709 runs at an average of 33.41. His highest score was 102 not out. His best ODI bowling was 6 wickets for 14 runs, a record for the best bowling figures by any bowler in an ODI innings in a losing cause.

Pakistan Captaincy

At the height of his career, in 1982, the thirty-year Khan took over the captaincy of the Pakistan cricket team from Javed Miandad. As a captain, Khan played 48 Test matches, of which 14 were won by Pakistan, 8 lost and the remaining 26 were drawn. He also played 139 ODIs, winning 77, losing 57 and ending one in a tie.

In the team’s second match, Khan led them to their first Test win on English soil for 28 years at Lord’s. Khan’s first year as captain was the peak of his legacy as a fast bowler as well as an all-rounder. He recorded the best Test bowling of his career while taking 8 wickets for 58 runs against Sri Lanka at Lahore in 1981-1982.

He also topped both the bowling and batting averages against England in three-Test series in 1982, taking 21 wickets and averaging 56 with the bat. Later the same year, he put up a highly acknowledged performance in a home series against the formidable Indian team by taking 40 wickets in six Tests at an average of 13.95.

By the end of this series in 1982-1983, Khan had taken 88 wickets in 13 Test matches over a period of one year as captain. This same Test series against India, however, also resulted in a stress fracture in his shin that kept him out of cricket for more than two years. An experimental treatment funded by the Pakistani government helped him recover by the end of 1984 and he made a successful comeback to international cricket in the latter part of the 1984-1985 season.

In 1987 in India, Khan led Pakistan in its first-ever Test series win and this was followed by Pakistan’s first series victory in England during the same year. During the 1980s, his team also recorded three creditable draws against the West Indies. India and Pakistan co-hosted the 1987 Cricket World Cup, but neither ventured beyond the semi-finals.

In 1988, he was asked to return to the captaincy by the President of Pakistan, General Zia-Ul-Haq. Soon after returning to the captaincy, Khan led Pakistan to another winning tour in the West Indies and was declared Man of the Series when he took 23 wickets in 3 Tests.

Khan’s career-high as a captain and cricketer came when he led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Playing with a brittle batting line-up, Khan promoted himself as a batsman to play in the top order along with Javed Miandad. At the age of 39, Khan took the winning last wicket himself.

1992 Cricket World Cup

The format was changed from previous tournaments, with a complete round-robin replacing the former two qualifying groups. The initial draw was released with eight competing countries and 28 round-robin matches, plus two semi-finals and a final. In late 1991, South Africa were re-admitted to the ICC after 21 years of exclusion due to apartheid.

The rule for calculating the target score for the team batting second in rain-affected matches was also changed. The previous rule, the Average Run Rate method, simply multiplied the run rate of the team batting first by the number of overs available to the team batting second, but this rule had been deemed to give an unfair advantage to the team batting second.

To rectify this, the target score would now be calculated by the Most Productive Overs method. In this system, if the team batting second had 44 overs available, their target score would be one greater than the 44 highest scoring overs of the team batting first.

While the reasoning behind the system seemed plausible, the timing of rain interruptions remained problematic: as the semi-final between England and South Africa demonstrated. The farcical end to the semi-final led to the creation of the Duckworth-Lewis method.

World Cup Round-Robin Stage

Co-hosts New Zealand proved the surprise package of the tournament, winning their first seven consecutive games to finish on top of the table after the round-robin. The other hosts, Australia, one of the pre-tournament favourites lost their first two matches. They recovered somewhat to win four of the remaining six, but narrowly missed out on the semi-finals.

The West Indies also finished with a 4 - 4 record, but were just behind Australia on run-rate. South Africa made a triumphant return with a win over Australia in their first match. They and England had solid campaigns and easily qualified for the semis, despite upset losses to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe respectively.

India had a disappointing tournament and never looked likely to progress beyond the round-robin. Sri Lanka were still establishing themselves at the highest level and beat only Zimbabwe and South Africa. New Zealand were defeated only twice in the tournament. Both losses were to champions Pakistan, once in the group stage and the second in the semi-final.

In the first semi-final, Pakistan defeated tournament favourites New Zealand in a high-scoring match to book a place in the World Cup Final for the first time. New Zealand batted first and scored 262. Their captain Martin Crowe was injured while scoring 91, and opted to let John Wright captain during Pakistan’s innings rather than risk aggravating the injury.

When Inzamam-Ul-Haq came into bat, Pakistan still needed 123 from 15 overs. He smashed 60 runs in 37 balls in the chase to achieve the target with one over remaining and won the Man of the Match award.

The second semi-final between South Africa and England, ended in controversial circumstances when, after a 10-minute rain delay, the most productive overs method revised South Africa’s target from 22 runs from 13 balls to an impossible 22 runs from one ball. This rule was replaced by the Duckworth-Lewis method for the 1999 World Cup onwards.

Thrilling World Cup Final

In a thrilling final, on March 25, 1992, Pakistan beat England by 22 runs at the MCG. Derek Pringle took two early wickets for England before Imran Khan and Javed Miandad added 139 for the third wicket to steady the Pakistan innings. Imran went on to score 72.

At the 25 over mark, Pakistan had only scored 70, but accelerated the score to 139 by the 31st over.Javed Miandad and Imran Khan built a steady partnership. Imran played a captain’s innings of 72 and Miandad 58 to steady the innings, followed by an onslaught from Inzamam (42) and Wasim Akram (33) enabling Pakistan to give England a fighting target of 250.

England’s start was shaky. Ian Botham was dismissed for a duck by Wasim Akram, followed by Alec Stewart, Hick, and Gooch, which left England tumbling at 69/4. A solid partnership of 71 between Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother caused Imran to give an early second spell to his main pacer Wasim Akram in the 35th over. The decision wrote the fate of the match.

Two deliveries from the left arm fast bowler dismissed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis. Soon Fairbrother was caught by Moin Khan off Aaqib Javed to seal England’s fate. Imran Khan had the final say, when he had Richard Illingworth caught by Ramiz Raja off his bowling to finish the final and crown Pakistan World Champions. Player of the Match was Wasim Akram.


Since retiring, Khan has written opinion pieces on cricket for various British and Asian newspapers. His contributions have been published in India’s Outlook magazines, Guardian, The Independent, and Telegraph. Khan also sometimes appears as a cricket commentator on Asian and British sports networks, including BBC Urdu and the Star TV network.

In 2004, when the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan after 14 years, he was a commentator on TEN Sports’ special live show, Straight Drive, while he was also a columnist for sify.com for the 2005 India-Pakistan Test series. He has provided analysis for every cricket World Cup since 1992, which includes providing match summaries for the BBC during the 1999 World Cup.

On November 23, 2005, Khan was appointed as the chancellor of University of Bradford, succeeding Betty Lockwood and served from December 7, 2005 to December 7, 2014. The university vice-chancellor Brian Cantor said Khan had been “a wonderful role model for our students.” Khan was later inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Founding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996, Khan won a seat in the National Assembly in the 2002 general election, serving as an opposition member from Mianwali until 2007.

PTI boycotted the 2008 general election and became the second-largest party by popular vote in the 2013 general election. In the 2018 general election, running on a populist platform, PTI became the largest party in the National Assembly, and formed a coalition government with Khan as the Prime Minister.

Khan addressed a balance of payments crisis with bailouts from the International Monetary Fund as the Prime Minister. He presided over a shrinking current account deficit, and limited defence spending to curtail the fiscal deficit, leading to some general economic growth. He enacted policies that increased tax collection and investment.

His government committed to a renewable energy transition, launched the Ehsaas Programme and the Plant for Pakistan initiative. He presided over the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused economic turmoil and rising inflation in the country and threatened his political position. Amidst a constitutional crisis, Khan was removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.

(The author’s email is [email protected])