Ian Botham celebrates the wicket of Javed Miandad
© PA Photos
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Hate to Love

The Botham attraction

Can a Pakistani hold anything but outright hate for Sir Ian?

Imran Yusuf

I do not hate to love Ian Botham. Rather, I have made the journey from hating him to loving him - a rare, perhaps unique, journey for someone of Pakistani origin. If a Pakistani has any sort of journey at all with "Beefy", it is usually from hate to deeper hate, with a pit stop at severe contempt.

This is baffling, given that for much of his life he has sported a ridiculous moustache and attracted a fair share of controversy. One would think that Pakistanis would embrace him as one of their own, with the added bonus of fair skin.

Not so, because when Pakistanis think of Botham, two stories usually come to mind. There is Sir Ian's un-knightly comment that Pakistan was "the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid". And then there is the image of Beefy outside the High Court - looking like a sixth-form rugby player who has just been reprimanded by the headmaster for a jocular misdemeanour on tour - having lost a libel case to Imran Khan.

These incidents, and a general unexamined sense of Botham being the adversary of Pakistanis in some way, made me inherit the hatred for Botham that seemed ingrained in fellow fans.

Though he played the game with incredible skill, Botham was a link to cricket's amateur side, as if he took the ethos and hurly burly of English village cricket and applied to it international superstardom

Yet I no longer feel this way. I probably just grew out of it. Like many inherited prejudices, the first time I looked at it fully in the face, it just went up in a puff like the smoke from one of Sir Ian's alleged mid-season joints.

These days when it comes to Botham and Pakistan, I prefer to dwell on a different occasion: him celebrating his 50th birthday in Faisalabad during England's tour in 2005. I remember his co-commentators delighting in the irony of the great bon viveur bringing up his big five-oh in a city known only for its textile manufacturing. (Rumour has it, though, that he dashed off to Lahore or Karachi on the final evening of the Test in order to celebrate in a manner closer to his usual style. A needless escape: if he had made a decent friend in Faisalabad, I am sure he could have procured Johnny Walker Black Label identical to that available in the bigger cities.)

On air, Botham did not curse the gods, but revelled in the humour of the situation. He mostly seems to do this, actually: despite his occasional lapse into a sourpuss, the essence of Sir Ian's likeability is the fun and energy he brings to the table, to the field, to the airwaves. As a commentator he loves the banter, sure, but he also regularly demonstrates a subtle and penetrative wit. Compare this to that high priest of humourlessness, his old nemesis Imran, and we see the greatness of Sir Ian emerge. He was - he is - a tremendous character, a massive personality and life force for the game of cricket, and for this reason Beefy should only, can only, be loved. Even if you hate to do so.

Keep walking, Sir Ian

Keep walking, Sir Ian © Getty Images

To relive the cricketing late 1970s and early '80s is to remember the great era of allrounders. This is not the place to debate who was the best, but footage of Botham - spurred on by what Richard Hadlee had done in New Zealand, envious of Kapil Dev's exploits from India, annoyed after poring over the papers for Imran's latest figures in Pakistan - is to see cricket in full flight. There was an artful beauty to these other cricketers just mentioned, a symmetry of form in their batting and bowling. But Botham was a force of nature. Though he played the game with incredible skill, he was a link to cricket's amateur side, as if he took the ethos and hurly burly of English village cricket and applied to it international superstardom.

This is not a hark back, not a yearning for unreconstructed maleness to once again charge across our cricket fields. This is a remembrance of a time when personalities, and bodies, were not sculpted. When reputations were not managed. When a sense of players' cunning and power stemmed not from bulgy bats and laptops but from an animal sense of the moment, a lion's sniff that the hunt was on. Not bad for someone who spent half his career hungover.

And it was undoubtedly a great career. Botham's 383-strong wicket-taking record for England was only broken by James Anderson in 2015. As a batsman, a Test average in the 30s at a time of all-time bowling greats (and lots of matches against West Indies) points to an ability beyond the thrilling, series-turning knocks of the '81 Ashes.

For much of his life, Botham has sported a ridiculous moustache and attracted a fair share of controversy. One would think that Pakistanis would embrace him as one of their own

But even if I hadn't rated him as an allrounder, even if I'd been stung permanently by his mother-in-law comment (although, thinking about it, my own mother-in-law lives in Pakistan), even if I'd been outraged by the nude pic posted on his Twitter feed (Sir Ian has said it was the result of a hack - you see, even the Russians hate to love him), even if I'd thought he was a big man acting out Little Englander fantasies through his vociferous support for Brexit, even if I'd wrinkled my nose at his suggestion that Pakistan should be banned from international cricket until they got their act together following the spot-fixing scandal in 2010, my journey from hate to love would have been inevitable.

As should yours.

For this is a man who has raised over £25 million for charity through his legendary walks. Again, a comparison with Imran is telling. He too has done philanthropic wonders. The cancer hospitals in his mother's name have saved and improved hundreds of thousands of lives. But whereas Imran couldn't stop there - his ego propelled him to reach for the big game of politics - Sir Ian is merely content to go big-game-fishing.

I had once seen Sir Ian as an oaf and a bully, a flag-bearer for an Englishness that might exclude people like me. I now urge him to walk on.

Imran Yusuf is a writer based in Karachi

 

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  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | August 16, 2017, 11:07 GMT

    @Andy " >>>Sobers was selected as a specialist bowler in his first four years as a WI player; it was not until he scored his 365* - his first ton -that his all rounder potential was appreciated." In all fairness, your recollections are not accurate in this instance. Even until he scored 365*, he was NOT a specialist bowler at all - 16 Tests, 21 wickets @ 40.33 with a strike rate of 111 balls per wicket. These are the figures of a part-timer at best. Yes, his returns improved afterward, but in the end, to call him a "great bowler" is a travesty given his strike rate of over 15 overs per wicket. He was an all-time great batsman which I've always maintained but I firmly believe his bowling is way too over-hyped. Statistics over a career of any player can be assessed objectively, and they do not have color of personal biases attached to them.

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 28, 2017, 8:09 GMT

    @Hamza Salman - Sobers was selected as a specialist bowler in his first four years as a WI player; it was not until he scored his 365* - his first ton -that his all rounder potential was appreciated. Looking at specialist bowlers at around the same time Ramadhin (88), Valentine (93), Tayfield (80), Lock (76), Underwood (74), Illingworth (98...and he could also bat a bit)...), Edmonds (96), Gibbs (88) and more recently, Vettori (80) suggest that a S/R of 91 for a bowler of such varıety is not of that much significance. Yes, Imran was a "complete" all rounder but so, too, inarguably, was Sobers....Sobers great batsman, great bowler, good captain, despite his over generous declaration against England, test standard fielder close to or outfield...and my case rests not just on statıstıcs (what ıs the sayıng ...there are lies, damn lies and statistics) but on the unseen values highlighted by those there at the time. As I said before perhaps we should agree to differ

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 26, 2017, 18:42 GMT

    @Andy - I don't think Sobers could play in WI team as a specialist bowler as his S/R was over 15 overs per wicket. The reason I asked is because of comparison - Imran could, and did play as a specialist batsman in the period 1983 - 1985 as he couldn't bowl as recovering from stress fractures. He was the mainstay of Pakistan's batting along with Miandad in the last 10 years of his career - from '82 to '92, averaging over 52. Batting being his "weak" suite, this underlines how magnificent and complete an all-rounder was Imran. Starkly, in his strongest suites of bowling and captaincy - Imran is inarguably an all-time great in both spheres. There has been no other cricketer except for Imran Khan in entire cricket history who was an all-time great in two disciplines and of Test standard in another. I rest my case.

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 26, 2017, 8:04 GMT

    @ Hamza Salaman - Question "Would you say Sobers EVER was someone who could play as a specialıst bowler for his team?" Answer : "Yes, without any shadow of doubt....and he did"

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 25, 2017, 20:37 GMT

    @ANDY - would you say Sobers EVER was someone who could play as a specialist bowler for his team? I do not think so. Imran Khan, between 1982-1992, though, was "the mainstay of Pak batting line-up along with Miandad". The head-to-head is rather stark: Imran the bowler = Sobers, the batsman (both all-time greats). Imran, the batsman (Test specialist standard) > Sobers the bowler (below Test specialist standard), and Imran the skipper > Sobers the fielder - (one marshaling the troops with such fearless and innovative mindset, uniting and invigorating a fractious team is easily more productive than a wonderful great slip fielder). Both were absolutely fantastic cricketers but I simply cannot see how with such pre-eminent performance measures can Imran be overtaken. And mind you, Imran Khan was never one to play for statistics, as gorgeous his performance stats are. I think Imran is clearly underestimated by many as they get nostalgic about Sobers much due to the 6 sixes and 365* WR.

  • POSTED BY usmang7508257 on | July 25, 2017, 16:57 GMT

    Imran's record is astonishing. I knew he was a great bowler and a mighty skipper, but his batting prowess also looks quite impressive. I wonder if there has ever been a more valuable and impactful player than him in history. Kudos to the great man!

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 24, 2017, 17:44 GMT

    @Hamza Salman....My post is very well focused and relevant based on the observations of those who understand that cricket is not solely based on an obsession with statistics as well as my own opinion since I first saw Sobers on the 1957 tour. With the likes of Worrell, Ramadhin, Valentine, Hall, Grıffiths, Dewdney and, of course, Gibbs, perhaps the demands on him were different. As Jack Hobbs once said a score of sixty or seventy on a diffıcult pitch can be far more valuable than a century on an easy one. We look from a different perspective. Perhaps we should agree to differ.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 24, 2017, 9:00 GMT

    @Andy - I didn't ask you about Sobers the all-rounder, or tales from players of yester years mired in nostalgia, so all your post seems redundant and ill-focused. You asked me how could I assert Sobers was NOT a Test standard bowler. I challenged you through stats - 235 wickets in 93 Tests. A strike rate of 92 balls per wicket, and an average of 34. Pray tell, how is this Test standard? If someone needs literally 150 overs on average to get a team out totally (ten wickets span), how is this even remotely Test standard? You talk about varieties - tell you what - Tendulkar the bowler also had varieties, actually more, and happened to average 54 as a bowler. What use the varieties when the returns are so mediocre in the case of Sobers? A "wiley bowler" cannot need 15 overs for every wicket.

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 22, 2017, 10:01 GMT

    @Hamza Salman No stats but 8032 runs and 235 wickets suffice. My preference is for the vıews and opinions of far better qualified individuals than me. Sobers profile by Liverman "no one can raise an eyebrow at Garry Sobers being called the greatest all rounder." Bradman " (Sobers) a five in one test cricketer" Muthu, "then happened the emergence of Hadlee, Khan, Dev and, more recently Kallis but Sobers would arguably tower over every other claimant for the greatest all rounder of all time." Boycott said not just the best left hand bat but the best batsman he ever saw or opposed but unhesingtatingly the best all rounder ever. As a batman he was great, as a bowler merely superb and would have made it on to the WI side on that alone - a genıus bat, wiley bowler (left arm orthodox, seam, swing, wrist spin) and an agile fielder in a multiplicity of positions. I saw him, and the others in the article, on the field and add my endorsement to these views (and many more like ones)

  • POSTED BY anthony on | July 20, 2017, 17:45 GMT

    The other all rounders had more or less consistent long successful careers.....Bothams was spectacular in its first phase 1977-1982...... quite good during its mid years 1982-1986 and after the aussie tour very poor from 1987-1992...where a fat hungover ageing botham was reduced to a few bowling cameos. The first phase is flattered a little by the packer 18 months....the mid phase botham remained a dangerous foe but lacking his past batting discipline and fast bowling speed..........Botham if he had had a more professional mindset to matches and fitness and rest would probably have ended up with a batting average 40/41 and a bowling average of 22/23......he was the best on his day imo.....but by the same token Imran Khan had two of his prime years lost to his retirement and another 18 months lost to injury in the 80s.......Imran in the last few years of his test career during some tough tours was averaging 50 plus with the bat so Imran khan is probably in reality the best all rounder

  • POSTED BY anthony on | July 20, 2017, 17:14 GMT

    Any article on either Botham or Pakistani cricket is great but the premise of this one is wrong. Botham was a mans man he insulted most those he respected. Yes from the 80s all the way up to the first half of the 1990s the Khan /botham feud and Bothams undiplomatic views on Pakistan and its umpires would suggest dislike. But the reality is very soon after Botham visited Pakistan several times and loved the country and the cuisine. He even became great friends with former foes like akram and waqar....that progress had been made by the early to mid 2000s.......since than he has formed other great friendships like with shoaib akhtar........this is old news.......its like the old feud botham had with the MCC.....buried in the past.................I know loads of Pakistanis who loved botham by and large even back in the 1980s for his attitude and style of play.....these days it is mutual Ian loves what Pakistani cricket brings to the table

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 20, 2017, 13:56 GMT

    @Andy - mate, you did not give ANY statistics to base your view, but you would have noticed plentiful in my posts. So, if anything, you must take off the glasses of subjectivity and attachment to folklore for a minute please, and assess "Sobers the bowler". Don't get swayed by stories that he could bowl fast too, and varieties, because the fact is his record is MEDIOCRE. Now try convincing how in the world can a bowler with a strike rate of over 15 overs per wickets and an average of 34 be ranked as "Test standard", other than being from Zimbabwean or an Associate team? Can a player with such a record be played as a specialist bowler? How?

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 20, 2017, 13:33 GMT

    @Hamza Salman On I realise that it is unlikely to convince someone peering through Imran Khan biased tinted spectacles but to suggest that Sobers was not a Test standard bowler is beyond belief! Rather than take my observations may I further suggest that you read the Cricinfo profile of Sir Garry

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 20, 2017, 9:27 GMT

    Imran v Sobers 3/3___

    Serial Man-of-the-Series Awards winner ever since that feature got introduced in early 1980s. Trailblazing fast bowler, IK inspired generation of fasties from Pakistan. so selfless, he refused to play weak opposition in the final few years of his career, citing lack of motivation as the reason. Once declared team innings when himself batting in the 90s! Regarding his quest for success and taking up challenges, Imran Khan's famous words were, "I am not afraid ever of losing. I just hate losing." He was the team's de facto coach and spokesman too. Imran Khan, thus, is truly unmatchable in cricket history. _____ Thus a dispassionate objective analysis shows how superior Imran is in history's annals. Given the choice between an all-time great bowler, and skipper, Test standard batsman would always get the nod over an all-time great batsman and a useful but NOT Test standard bowler, a great fielder. Genuine bowling all-rounders are anyway worth their weight in gold.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 20, 2017, 9:23 GMT

    Andy - "I just wonder how any of them compare with an all-rounder from an earlier one.......Sir Garry....."

    I'll venture as follows: 1/3___Imran was an all-time great in two disciplines (bowling and captaincy), and Test standard in a third (batting). No other cricketer in entire history can match this. Look at it this way - in bowling he averages as McGrath or Marshall (22.8), in batting his average is identical to that of Lamb and Atherton (37.8). His bowling stats are the most balanced for all bowlers in history who have taken over 300 Test wickets - against all countries, home or away, he averaged sub-30. Achieved the highest ICC Test Rating ever since pitches started to get covered post WWII - 922 in 1983. History's greatest ever bowler-skipper: 187 Test wickets @ 20.2. That's not the end of it - as a skipper, he averaged 52 with the bat!

    ....Contd.

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 20, 2017, 8:27 GMT

    @Pelham On - Thank you for filling in the details surrounding the injury Botham suffered when hit by an Andy Roberts delivery...Both prınted a pıcture on social medıa of hım beıng tended by Hampshıre's Peter Sainsbury when offerıng hıs condolences when Peter died not that long ago. While I am sure that opinions will continue to differ about who of those four was the all-rounder of the era I just wonder how any of them compare with an all-rounder from an earlier one.......Sir Garry.....

  • POSTED BY Scott on | July 20, 2017, 1:33 GMT

    Good to see a an exceptionally well-informed and measured debate taking place somewhere on the web, without descending into vitriol. Good work chaps

  • POSTED BY Alex on | July 19, 2017, 23:29 GMT

    No one fears the lovable SHEEP.

  • POSTED BY Priti on | July 19, 2017, 20:28 GMT

    No doubt Beefy was a great cricketer. IMO, out of the 4 all rounders, only 2 - Botham and Imran- can make a legit claim to be the best all rounder of the era. Albeit great all rounders, Hadlee's batting and Kapil's bowling count against them (compared to Imran and Botham). Botham may have been a better batsman and catcher and Imran a better bowler. With that said, I think Imran wins the title as he was a great captain whereas Botham failed miserably at the helm. And I am neither English nor Pakistani, I am an Indian. And growing up, I had my fair share of hating Imran immensely! But as a 40+ adult, I can look objectively and beyond personal bias. And going by the stats (and even considering intangibles) my ranking is: 1.Imran 2.Botham 3.Kapil and 4.Hadlee.

  • POSTED BY Pelham on | July 19, 2017, 20:19 GMT

    Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 16:19 GMT: The 1977 Australian side was captained by Greg Chappell. It is true that Ian Chappell was not playing, but that was because he had retired from Test cricket after the 1975-76 season. Like Ross Edwards, who had retired from Test cricket after the 1975 series in England, Ian Chappell came out of retirement to sign for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.

  • POSTED BY Pelham on | July 19, 2017, 19:54 GMT

    Andy on | July 19, 2017, 12:22 GMT: Ian Botham certainly played a major role as an 18 year old in a one wicket win over a Hampshire side containing Andy Roberts, but it was not his debut. The Wisden report says "Botham, surviving a blow in the mouth from Roberts, batted magnificently in company with Moseley." Botham top scored for Somerset with 45 not out, batting at number nine, and adding 63 for the ninth wicket with Hallam Moseley, who made 24, before adding a further eight runs for the last wicket with number eleven Bob Clapp, who was left 0 not out, but "had to dive a long way to complete a third run" in the 53rd over of a possible 55, thus ensuring that Botham could retain the strike to hit the winning boundary in the 54th over.

  • POSTED BY Saeed on | July 19, 2017, 17:37 GMT

    Please do not compare those great all-rounders as they all were the greatest of the players who have ever played the game. Read the article & enjoy it. As for as I watched playing them all, it was a pleasure to watch them while their respective teams were in deep trouble. They were the greatest and will remain the greatest. According to me there is a criteria for all-rounders 1) Is he good enough batsman to be selected solely on batting? 2) Is he good enough bowler to be selected solely on the basis of his bowling? And the three all-rounders Imran, Botham & Kapil Dev were good enough players to be selected solely either as batsmen or bowlers. This article is all about Botham. Even if I like him or not, he was one of the greatest English cricketer, a phenomenal bowler & batsman.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 16:19 GMT

    Krishnan - that West Indies team of 1980s was devastating even on dead wickets. They trampled India 3-0 in 1983, but in 1980 against Pakistan, and then later in 1987 return Series, all had identical scorelines of 1-1, with Imran Khan being the standout performer from both sides, with Viv being a close second. ICC Test Ratings backdated, for those times validate WI as the top side, with Pakistan taking the crown at times in between. The WI may have lost Holding but they had gained Malcolm Marshall. Also, in your post, you have missed the 1976 Series in WI where Imran took 25 wickets. The 1977 and 1978 Series Botham played against Aussies did not have the Chappells, or Lillie, for example, due to Packer saga.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 16:13 GMT

    @David - I believe Botham was monstrously talented but lacked discipline and hard work ethic, although ironically that hard work ethic surfaced when he took on the charity marathon walks and other initiatives after he retired. Regarding Imran, I have no doubt he was the greatest-ever all-rounder given that he was a bowling all-rounder, an all-time great in two disciplines (bowling and captaincy), and Test standard in batting (average identical to that of Atherton and Lamb). There has never been a more valuable skipper in terms of performances too, as he averaged 52 in batting, and 20 in bowling in the 48 Tests he skippered. In the 1982 Series, his returns were easily superior to that of Botham - he averaged 53, generally batting with the weak tail, and took 21 wickets at 19. He was the Man of the Series. In fact, he was the Man of the Match in the decider Test too that England won. This was the reason for the headline, "England 2, Imran 1". This was his first Series as captain.

  • POSTED BY Krishnan on | July 19, 2017, 16:04 GMT

    Hamza - the Australian team in 1977, when Botham made his debut, was a full-strength one (bar Lillee). In addition, the teams in 1979/80 (when he did very well) and 1981 were strong sides. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we need to look deeper at his record against West Indies before writing him off. Imran did not play as many tests against West Indies in the challenging conditions that Botham did. He played a four test series on dead wickets in Pakistan in 1980, followed by a three test series (again in Pakistan in 1986), followed by a three test series in West Indies in 1988 when West Indies was undergoing a transition having just lost Holding and Garner. Likewise, Kapil's centuries against West Indies came on either flat wickets when the game was over (Trinidad 1983) or against a sub-par strength West Indies side at home (Madras, 1988). This is not to castigate Kapil and Imran - who were also great players - but just to call for fairness in assessing Botham.

  • POSTED BY David on | July 19, 2017, 15:56 GMT

    @Hamza - Botham made his debut in 1977 and had played 5 Tests already by 1978. Asif, Mushtaq and Majid were past their best by then; and Imran was a few years off maturity. In 1982, Botham and Imran were fairly equal - two fifties and about 20 wickets each (in a series England won 2 -1), in which Botham;s performances had a bigger impact on the outcome of the series. Although you didn't mention that result? I would place Imran at the top of the four all-rounders at the time - his stats between 1982 and 1988 almost beggar belief. And as you mention, he was a great leader. Being a fast bowler, rather than fast-medium, puts him ahead of Botham. But you miss the point -when Botham was at his best, he was also at his most athletic - it wasn't because of weak opponents. After 1982 he really porked-out, and slowed down to medium pace . Something the other three never did. Either way, West Indies never hammered Botham's England - the results were 1-0 and 2-0. The 1-0 victory was by two wickets

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 15:26 GMT

    David - it is not accurate to state that Botham played only once against a Packer-weakened side. Against Australia, he played two such Series. Apart from the home Series you in 1977 (this, and not the one against Pak was his debut Series), there is the five-Test Series on the Aussie tour of 1978. Packer players were not part of the latter Series too. When you mention his record was at par with Imran between 1977 - 1982, it takes into account the Packer-less Pak team of 1979 which was blown away by Botham, but in the 1982 home Series, he was overshadowed by Imran Khan's exceptional all-round performances. But yes, Botham's performance was good. I remember a headline in one English tabloid after the Series: "England 2, Imran 1"

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 14:52 GMT

    David - Pak team that toured England and got decimated, actually Botham's debut Series, was seriously weakened due to the absence of 5 top players who'd contracted with Packer, and English administration threatened to call off the Series if they played. Imran, Majid, Zaheer, Mushtaq and Asif - none of them played in that Series.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 14:50 GMT

    Botham's record is very good against the second-tier teams of his era - NZ, India, and Australia (was not in the league of WI or Pak in those times, as they lost in Pak but held their own Downunder), but his record does not match up to simple scrutiny against the top teams - West Indies and Pakistan. Even against Pakistan, his better performances relate to the 1978 Series when Pak was missing the services of its top 5 players (called Packer superstars) due to Packer Series and our history's weakest team led by Bari was in England. When Imran returned, Botham simply was no match for him, as Imran utterly dominated both the Series in England in 1982 and 1987, winning many duels with Botham on personal front too. Yes, Beefy was a superb slip catcher, but then Imran was arguably history's greatest-ever skipper. You'd agree on which role is more crucial and decisive for the team.

  • POSTED BY David on | July 19, 2017, 14:43 GMT

    Great article - and surprising. Beefy only really played against one side weakened by Packer - the Aussies in 78/79 - a series in which he didn't do much. Otherwise he played against the best available. @Hamza, Botham was at his best (before he became an over-weight caricature of his former self) between 1977 and 1982. During that time, his record against Pakistan was on a par with Imran Khan's against England. However, I suppose he who laughs last laughs longest. You can't change the facts though.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 14:41 GMT

    Imran Khan formed the backbone of his team's batting from 1982 onward along with Javed Miandad. If in many of his major knocks, he returned undefeated, how can it be held against him? Moreover, in that phase, generally, he batted at Number 6 in a Pak team which had a long tail, many a time shepherding the lower order. He averaged 62 batting at #6. If anything, that spared the bowlers from further misery, like against India, his 135* in Chennai, 109* v India in Karachi, 93* v SL in Sialkot (he declared the innings, only the second skipper in entire Test history to declare when himself in the 90s, as was focused on winning, not personal milestones), or his 82* in Sydney when saved the Test playing out the last day? Imran was an accomplished batsman, not a slogger. Botham had some major knocks but he was not a dependable batsman, as his average is low and a very high proportion of low score dismissals to go with 14 tons (he also played in 20 more Test matches than Imran).

  • POSTED BY Master on | July 19, 2017, 14:22 GMT

    It depends if you are a cricket fan or a nationalist. A true cricket fan recognises and appreciates talent wherever it comes from.. Javed Miandad has plenty of fans over here for his wondrous batting. Perhaps not quite so well regarded for his behaviour but thats also true of Botham. As for the comments about Botham being an average player...14 Test 100s and 27 Test 5-fers puts him in a class of one. No one else in the history of the game can match those twin achievements. Kallis and Sobers dont have the 5-fers and Imran, Hadlee and Kapil are well short on the centuries. Oh and he also took 100 catches. Be wary of reading too much into Imran's superior batting average. Imran got a red inker in 20% of his knocks, Botham in just 3%. Botham scored more runs per innings than Imran.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 14:13 GMT

    Statistics are bereft of the color of subjectivity when put to objective scrutiny. Botham's career was of two halves. As spectacular as the first one was, equally mediocre was the second one. I can get you the stats if you desire, as I have done in the previous posts. Yes, he won an Ashes single-handedly almost, but that is one Series. Imran dominated him the two Test Series the two played against each other, both times in England with Khan taking the Man of the Series both times. Overall, in his entire Test career, Botham failed miserably against the best team of his times, the West Indies. I believe he also lost his captaincy due to the hammering against the WI. He scored a number of centuries overall in his Test career, but his not-so-impressive average tells the story of a career littered with many low scores too.

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 14:06 GMT

    Well, against the top team of their times, the West Indies, let's compare Imran v Botham. Imran: 18 Test, 1 ton, batting average 28, 80 wickets @21, 6 fifers | Botham: 20 Tests, 0 ton, 21.4 batting average, 61 wickets @ 35, 3 fifers. This shows Imran was mighty against the best team of his times, and Botham was mediocre, to say the least. Botham beefed up his record in the first two years of his career against weakened teams due to Packer era, and especially the Australian team of those times was nowhere that excellent. Crucially, in Tests, the two all-rounders came up against each other, this is the record: 8 Tests. And ALL those Tests were in England. Imran batting average 50.3, 1 ton; 42 wickets, 4 fifers, average @ 20.1 | Botham, 0 ton, batting average 30.4; 25 wickets, one fifer, average @ 36.4. One can see the total domination of Imran Khan over Ian Botham all round.

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | July 19, 2017, 13:31 GMT

    Good post by the author, am indian but do understand where the author is coming from, just raw talent and force of persona saw Botham through-and in the midst of his excellent bowling and batting feats, he was a terrific slip fielder would surely be amongst the top 10 slippers in TC.....whenever he was on, there was something in the air, you just could not miss it-u know something was gonna happen...cheers...

  • POSTED BY Joe on | July 19, 2017, 12:29 GMT

    "One would think that Pakistanis would embrace him as one of their own, with the added bonus of fair skin." Not sure why fair skin is an 'added bonus'? Anyway, having read his autobiography I can't say I like the guy, but then it's not like I know him. And when it comes to the cricket, it wasn't about stats; he single-handedly won an ashes series for one thing. It was more the myth, the character, and the big match mentality that makes him stand out - and stats don't do that sort of thing justice.

  • POSTED BY Andy on | July 19, 2017, 12:22 GMT

    @EDD ON I really couldn't believe the comments of the three individuals who posted before you and thank you for your figures which, in my view, rather confirm how wrong they are in their thinking. Not only was Botham an exceptional and brave close fielder but I recall him being hit while batting at number eleven for Somerset against Hampshire and being hit in the face - no helmets or grills - by a ball from Andy Roberts. He spat out several teeth and where many would have "retired hurt" he batted on and in a not inconsiderable last wicket stand saw his county to vıctory. He was just eighteen and, I think I am right, it was his debut. I am not one for saying "who was the greatest" but Botham's cricketing qualities over a fifteen year International career are undeniable.

  • POSTED BY Altaf on | July 19, 2017, 11:51 GMT

    If Botham got knighthood then why not Imran khan who had better record than him in all aspects?

  • POSTED BY Edd on | July 19, 2017, 11:36 GMT

    Great piece. To the first 3 commenters, just look at Beefy's stats (and specifically the number of 100s and catches compared to Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan). Botham: 102 tests, 5200 runs @ 33.54 (14x100s), 383 wickets @ 28.40 (27x5wI), 120 catches. Imran Khan: 88 tests, 3807 runs @ 37.69 (6x100s), 362 wickets @ 22.81 (23x5WI), 28 catches. Hadlee: 85 tests, 3124 runs @ 27.16 (2x100s), 431 wickets @ 22.29 (36x5WI), 39 catches. Kapil Dev: 131 tests, 5248 runs @ 31.05 (8x100s), 434 wickets @ 29.64 (23x5WI), 64 catches.

    What is often forgotten by young fans is what a brilliant (and brave) slip fielder Beefy was. Long live the great man!

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | July 19, 2017, 11:13 GMT

    An average player in a crappy english team. Nowhere close to imran, hadlee or kapil

  • POSTED BY Asif on | July 19, 2017, 10:45 GMT

    Really?What are his key achievements apart from controversies? Name three......... please. Yousaf best to praise Nawaz Sharif next!

  • POSTED BY Hamza Salman on | July 19, 2017, 10:09 GMT

    I think you have wildly over-glorified him. He made a sensational start to his Test career, owing much due to playing against second-string opposition as Packer Series had attracted virtually all the top players of the world. Moreover, his batting average is in low 30s whilst bowling average is also nearly 30 - nothing earth-shaking about it.