By Anwar Shah

PESHAWAR, 6 September: Fast bowler Imran Khan, hailing from Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has gained popularity in the world of cricket in a very short period due to his mastery of reverse swing.

The 28-years-old Imran Khan has got 14 wickets in his five Test appearances from Pakistan. In an exclusive interview with TNN, he said he was named Imran Khan by his brother in 1987 as he was greatly impressed from the Pakistani cricket legend Imran Khan who is now chairman of a political party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).

Brief introduction: Imran says his elder brother was a cricket lover and he gave him the name of Imran Khan as he was greatly impressed by then Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan. He said he had passion for cricket since his childhood. He said he initially played for his school on tennis ball and he was captain of his team. He said he used to watch every match of Pakistan and he had great love for bowling. Imran said love for the game brought him to Peshawar Cricket Academy and with continuous efforts and dedication he eventually achieved the great goal of playing for Pakistan.

“I am a resident of Manial area of Lower Dir. Several players from Dir played club cricket before me. Muslim Khan was one of them who after seeing my bowling told me that I am capable of playing for Pakistan. I was also confident that with this pace and accuracy, one day I will definitely play for Pakistan,” Imran said.

Importance of education: Imran believes that one can play best cricket even without education if he has talent. However, he said the importance of education cannot be overlooked as it brings discipline.

“Educated players find it easy to speak English. I will advise all the upcoming players to give equal importance to their studies along with cricket,” he said.

Feelings on playing for Pakistan: Imran said he could not sleep the whole night when he was named in the national team.

“When Waqar Bhai (brother) told me in the morning that I will play the match I felt like flying in the air,” he said.

Dressing room environment: The paceman believes that the discipline established by coaches Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed will help Pakistan win the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.

Imran have a special distinction that all the five Test matches played by him had been won by Pakistan.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction that all the matches participated by me were won by Pakistan. A win is always important no matter I sit in the dressing room or not,” Imran said.

Ideal player: Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are Imran’s ideal cricketers. “I also like the bowling style of Umar Gul and Dale Steyn. My bowling style is also similar to Umar Gul. He has given many tips to me to improve my bowling,” he said.

Social life: Imran said the cricketers playing for Pakistan cannot give proper time to their friends and family.

“Even today I have never spent an hour in my home. I went to gym in the morning and then did lunch at home and now I am busy in practice here which will continue till late evening. It is not true that people change after joining the national team. The level of fitness required for playing on this level leave us with no time for other engagements,” he said.

He said staying in the team is even a harder challenge than finding a place in it.

Family support: Imran said he enjoyed a lot of family support, but financial and other problems came in his way.

“I started efforts for making a place in the national team in 2005. I continued my efforts with patience and got the reward in the end. Carrying the national kit is a big honour for me,” he said.

Memorable moment: Imran said memorable movement of his cricketing career came when he got the wicket of Australian captain Michael Clarke with reverse swing.

“Ahmed Shahzad hugged me at that time saying that the memories of Wasim Akram’s bowling in the 1992 World Cup have been revived,” he said.

Imran said that wicket-taking delivery got appreciation in the cricket world. “I often watch that moment on internet. I was in great rhythm at that time and was confident that I will get him out,” he said.

Memorable match: The Test match victory against Sri Lanka by chasing the target of 378 runs was a memorable match for Imran Khan.

“I got five wickets in the match which helped Pakistan win the difficult match. We had planned in the dressing room to restrict Sri Lanka below 400 and that plan worked well,” he said.

Imran said Younis Khan, Misbahul Haq and Shan Masood played brilliantly to achieve the difficult target.

Cricket talent in Dir: Imran believes there is a lot of cricket talent in Dir despite lack of facilities. He said the local players had to come to Peshawar as there is no academy in Dir.

He said currently Umar Gul, Yasir Shah, Junaid Khan, Muhammad Rizwan and he are playing for the national team from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said Israrullah and Adil Amin are also good players and they will play for the national team soon.

Future plans: Imran said every cricketer dreams of gaining top ranking. He said his ranking is gradually improving. He said he is working on his reverse swing with the help of Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed.

“I want to master the art of reverse swing both with new and old ball,” he said.

Imran advised the upcoming players to work with dedication to improve their game and also pay attention towards education and religious obligations. He said with discipline and morality a player will never lag behind.

Imran Khan bowling averages:

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 5 10 721 414 14 5/58 5/109 29.57 3.44 51.5 0 1 0
First-class 70 118 10428 6114 271 9/69 14/134 22.56 3.51 38.4 8 18 3
List A 38 38 1660 1490 42 6/48 6/48 35.47 5.38 39.5 1 1 0
Twenty20 31 30 630 751 32 4/20 4/20 23.46 7.15 19.6 1 0 0

Translation by Aamir Khan