Pakistan’s former captain Imran Khan was widely regarded as one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the game. Apart from being a consistent performer for the national team, Imran, as the captain of the side, played a major role in Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup victory. The all-rounder remained the captain of Pakistan for 10 years between 1982-1992, and oversaw the beginning of a number of players who went to become country’s legends in the sport.
One of them was Wasim Akram, who is regarded as one of the best fast bowlers of all-time; Akram made his Pakistan debut in 1984 and also led the side across three different tenures in the 90s. The former fast bowler was the captain of the side when Pakistan toured India in 1999, and has now shared a never-heard-before story about how Imran Khan continued to assist him long after the latter’s retirement.
The Test series between India and Pakistan was the first time when Shahid Afridi opened for the side in the longest format of the game, and Akram has revealed it was Imran’s suggestion.
“In the 1999 tour of India, he was the one who convinced me to take Afridi as opener in Test cricket. I was at his home, having dinner with him. Skipper said, ‘Afridi ko leke jaa rahe ho?’. I said yes. He said, ‘I think he will be a very good opener’. I said, ‘hang on a second. What do you mean, ‘opener’?’” Akram recalled in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
“He said, imagine you bowling to a player like him. You will be more worried about yourself, he will be smashing you three fours and your field positioning will be all over the place. I thoguht about it and realised that makes sense, especially in sub-continent wickets. We played him, he scored 140 (141) in the first Test, and he got runs in the second game as well,” said Akram further.
Pakistan went on to win the Test series 2-1; While Afridi did become a destructive opener for Pakistan during his prime years for the side, the all-rounder couldn’t replicate his success to similar extent in the longest format. Afridi represented the side in only 27 Tests, while playing in 398 ODIs and 99 T20Is.