DateLine: 24th February 2007
Asian cricket got a tremendous boost when charismatic captain Imran Khan led Pakistan to a memorable victory from a virtually hopeless position in the 1992 World Cup.
India had already achieved the feat in 1983 and Sri Lanka were to follow the two sub-continental sides in 1996. Never before have Asian nations enjoyed such success in the cricketing world.
Pakistan owed their victory to Imran, a tough and intelligent captain who was led by example and was a great motivator. He always had a major say in picking his side and saw to it the players stayed united and focused.
Pakistan were a talented bunch, but prone to pull in different directions. They needed a resolute leader to inspire them. They were fortunate to find the right man in Imran at the right time.
They were facing elimination when Imran told his players to play like "cornered tigers". It had instant effect as Pakistan roared back into contention with three successive wins in the round-robin league.
"In 1992, my Pakistan team peaked at the right time. Its confidence level was at its greatest," said Imran, one of the finest all-rounders in the game with 3,807 runs in Tests and 3,709 in one-dayers.
He also bagged 362 Test wickets and 182 in the shorter version of the game.
"In fact, my job as captain has been made a lot easier because our team had come through a torrid time in early matches. Midway through the World Cup, we were second from bottom in the qualifying table," he said.
Pakistan had suffered a blow even before the tournament started when key paceman Waqar Younis was ruled out due to an injury. They were then plagued with form and fitness problems.
Imran himself was struggling with a shoulder injury and was forced to skip two early matches. Nothing seemed to be going right for his side which claimed just one win in the first five games.
Things changed when Pakistan beat Australia at Perth. There was no stopping them now as they won the remaining two league matches before beating in-form New Zealand in the semi-final and then England in the final.
The batsman who played a crucial role in restoring Pakistan's fortunes was Imran's find -- Inzamam-ul-Haq, a 22-year-old who scored an aggressive 60 against New Zealand and a brisk 42 against England.
Imran also cleverly used leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, who was to grab three big wickets in the final.
When the Pakistani captain himself took the last England wicket to seal his team's triumph, he described the win as "the most fulfilling and satisfying cricket moment of my life".
Imran quit the game after the World Cup as a satisfied man. He was to devote his time building a cancer hospital in Lahore in memory of his late mother.
"I was thankful to the Almighty that I was able to leave cricket with dignity. It is a blessing that has been denied to greater cricketers than myself," he said.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)
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