When Imran Khan persuaded Sunil Gavaskar to continue playing
Sunil Gavaskar during his playing days (Getty Images)

Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar has revealed how he had planned to walk away from international cricket but it was Imran Khan’s request that persuaded him to carry on. Gavaskar had decided to retire from cricket following India’s tour of England in 1986, but the announcement of Pakistan’s India tour a year later, along with Imran’s desire to square off against his counterpart one more time assured Gavaskar to extend his career.

Gavaskar, writing for Times of India, spoke about Imran, a dear friend, on the occasion of the former allrounder getting elected as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

“‘You can’t retire now. Pakistan is coming to India next year and I want to beat India in India. If you aren’t part of that team, it won’t be the same. Come on, let’s have one last tilt against each other,’ Imran Khan replied when I told him I planned to retire at the end of the India tour of England,” Gavaskar said.

“It was in 1986 and we were having lunch at an Italian restaurant in London. I said if the announcement of the tour wasn’t made before the final Test, I would go ahead and announce my retirement from international cricket. The tour was indeed announced in a few days.”

Pakistan toured India for five Tests and six one-day internationals. After the first four Tests of ended in draws, Pakistan won the final game in Bangalore by 16 runs and registered their first series win in India. Dilip Vengsarkar emerged the leading run-getter of the series with 404 runs, whereas Gavaskar couldn’t make much of an impact. Imran on the other hand, had tallied 324 runs. The legendary batsman recalled a particular instance where he and Imran got a chance to bat together.

“I didn’t announce my retirement at the end of the Pakistan series as I was keen on playing the MCC bi-centenary Test at Lord’s a little later. When that side was announced, there was Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Imran and Javed Miandad. Imran and I had a partnership of 182 runs and what I enjoyed was the chats we had at the end of each over when two batsmen usually come down the pitch to encourage each other,” Gavaska, the first Indian to score 10000 Test runs, said.

“That’s exactly how it was at first as we tried to assess the bowlers and the situation but as the partnership grew and settled in, Imran and I were telling each other stories from the Pakistan and Indian dressing rooms and having a laugh over it. Then when he smashed a six in the MCC President’s box I joked that this was not what was expected of when they selected him for the game. He turned around and asked where the media box was and I said it’s too far even for you to hit there.”

Imran’s legendary is filled with triumphant moments, but none more important than leading Pakistan to their first World Cup win in 1992. Their start to the World Cup was nothing short of embarrassing. Having one just one of their five games – against Zimbabwe – and been comfortably beaten in three, including rivals India, early exit loomed. But against Australia, as legend has it, Imran delivered a stirring speech to his players right after the toss. Their fortuned changed and Pakistan went on to create history.

“He had a vision before the 1992 World Cup started that Pakistan would win the trophy and that’s exactly how it turned out. His belief despite Pakistan’s slow start to the tournament was unshakeable. By that time he had started work on building a cancer hospital in memory of his mother who had succumbed to the dreaded disease some years earlier,” Gavaskar said.