Muhammad Burdbar Khan
Comparisons are sometimes misleading. More so when one compares two different fields as apart as sports and politics. Yet, there may be more similarity in the two fields than one might think; especially, should one try to compare Politics and Cricket. In no game is the quality of leadership more pronounced than in Cricket, and one can hardly discount the importance of leadership in politics.
Cricket analysts still remember Mike Brearley as one of the better captains in English Cricket teams’ history. He was eminently known for his leadership thinking qualities that led the English cricket revival in the early eighties against Australia, with a comeback not only for him but for Ian Botham, during the epic Ashes series of 1981. Nearer to home in Pakistan, cricket witnessed singular display of leadership under Imran Khan during the cricket years of 1982-92, which still some look back as the greatest ‘golden’ era of Pakistan cricket. Where Brearley’s leadership flowed more from his strategic thinking skills than his personal achievements on field; Imran’ s leadership, in contrast, while relying on his thinking, displayed, more importantly, exemplary personal performances as captain that set a very ‘high’ benchmark for his team members to follow. Not even his staunchest political rivals, nowadays, can deny the quality of leadership during Imran’s tenure, as captain, that culminated in Pakistan’s world cricket cup triumph of 1992
Now Imran is the leader of a country while playing at a different ‘pitch’ with a team of ‘players’ yet again-all with different strengths and weaknesses. Imran may be blamed for all the ills that Pakistan face today but even his staunchest of adversaries may struggle to find evidence of dishonesty against him.
In the first two years of his prime ministership, no major scandal has surfaced. Not that his share of other political errors has been wanting on that account to provide ample ground to the opposition in the first two years. Imran was reported in the media on August 7th, 2020 to have said that Pakistan is at the tipping point, with only progress ahead. Resilience is a quality not unknown to him; those who have watched Imran play in cricket can vouch for that.
Interestingly, it is only when he is against the odds, he rises to the occasion. It was under Imran’s stewardship that Pakistan snatched many a victory from the jaws of defeat. Not very dissimilar are some of his government’s achievements of late.
The government deserves all the kudos for its handling of corona virus, Covid-19. Pakistan is one of the very few countries that has ‘defeated’ the virus and slowed its progress. It was reported in the media that Pakistan has come out of Corona virus much better than many advanced countries in the world. Bill Gates in last few days have, on record, appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in tackling corona virus. Even Pakistan’s neighbour India is struggling on that account. All of this can be attributed to many policy decisions by the government entailing 2,300 smart lockdowns covering 47 million Pakistanis as reported in press. It was also reported last week that compared to the same period last year, the exports are up 5.8% in July 2020; Federal Bureau of Revenue tax collections are up 8% exceeding the monthly target by 23%, and the foreign exchanges reserves have become the highest in last two years. The Ehsaas Program has financed 13 million Pakistanis by giving Rs 12,000 and reaching one in every three Pakistani households. The State Bank of Pakistan has re-financed loans so businesses can continue to pay their employees. Small wonder, International Monetary Fund’s latest GDP forecasts shows Pakistan as one of the most progressing nations in the world. However, all these gains need continuity, sustainability and long-term vision. But more importantly, it asks for a good team effort to overcome the challenges that constantly confront Pakistan. It is the team’s distinctive competences and the attendant teamwork that is needed in Pakistan more than ever before. It takes two to tango.
If Imran succeeded as a captain, it was the teamwork built on each member’s contribution and led by his personal example that made the day for Pakistan cricket; the same is needed in the political arena also.
Let us go back to March 1992; a sports event of world stage is taking place abroad, and Pakistan is just on the edge of getting out of the competition. Yet it rebounds in one the most astounding comebacks of cricketing history.
Let us come back to March 2020; Pakistan is struggling yet again but on a different ground with different portents, all looking bleak; the leader is the same, the playground is different. Come August 2020 and, presto! there is a turnaround on the bleak horizon with Imran’s ‘cornered’ tigers seeking a triumph of (similar) sorts!
The writer is a UK based academic and researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.