Back in 1971, a tall, slim man, aged 18, with the body of a natural athlete and a face like a Greek God, ran languidly at the Edgbaston, Birmingham cricket ground in England and let go the ball with a great action at almost 90 kmph…
As the years went by, Imran Khan grew into one of the best all-rounders the cricket world had ever seen. He could swing the ball both ways at great speed and his batting developed to such an extent that he could win a place in the side on his batting abilities alone.
And what made him special were his superb leadership qualities. Pakistan was always known as a fractious team with bloated egos and selfish players full of bias.
But Imran changed all that and took Pakistan to the top of the world with the World Cup in 1992 as the crowning glory.
After a 20-year struggle, Imran is again thrust with a leadership role – this time as Prime Minister of Pakistan. He has raised expectations of his country in his new role and there is hope of a new dawn or so they say! He becomes one of the few leading sportsmen in the world to take a top political role in his country.
It may come as a surprise, but former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was a creditable sportsman before he let go his sadistic acts in the country.
Amin was a national light heavyweight boxer from 1951 to 1960. His other sporting talent included playing rugby. He was also an excellent swimmer.
But there have been other sportsmen who may not have reached the highest office, but have had reasonably successful political careers.
Lord Coe was a superb British athlete who set records and won four Olympic medals, including two golds as a middle distance runner. He set eight outdoor and three indoor records in his career. His record in the 800m in 1981 was only broken in 1997.
He had a successful political career with the Conservative Party and was MP from 1992-1997.
Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov’s ambition went beyond the rooks and the bishops. A world champion at age 22, Kasparov used his brains to form the United Civil Front movement which was seen as an opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When it comes to a successful political career, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a shining example. Named Mr Universe at age 20, Schwarzenegger first began a successful career in Hollywood and then became Governor of California for two terms – from 2003 to 2011.
Sri Lanka’s hard-hitting opening batsman Sanath Jayasuriya was often restless at the crease while taking guard.
After retiring, Jaisurya’s restlessness led him to politics and he became a Sri Lanka minister after winning the elections handsomely.
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, a big favourite in his country, has also successfully launched a political career, being elected Congressman for a second term.
India has its share of cricketers turned politicians – Kirti Azad, Mohammed Azharuddin and Navjot Singh Sidhu. They have had their successes in the political arena, though Azad and Sidhu have been outspoken in the roles.
Sadly, the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, one of the best captains India has produced, stood twice for elections and failed. It is a rare occurrence for a popular man like the former Nawab.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.