Why Cricketing legend Imran Khan loves Bradford
PUBLISHED: 13:25 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 19:59 28 April 2016
Jo Haywood catches up with Imran Khan on his latest visit to West Yorkshire before the recent crisis in Pakistan
As Pakistan skittled out Australia in their first innings at Headingley for a measly 88 (their lowest Test score since 1956), one of their staunchest supporters was too busy elsewhere in the county to watch. He didn’t even have time to catch the television highlights.
‘I haven’t seen a single ball – not even on TV,’ said cricketing legend Imran Khan as he took a short break during a three-day visit to Bradford. ‘They keep me very busy.’
The ‘they’ in question are the powers-that-be at Bradford University, where Khan has been chancellor for six years. He visits the campus twice every year – three days in July, two in December – to carry out his official duties at degree ceremonies. But his connection with
the university, and the county, runs much deeper.
‘I never thought the relationship would have gone on this long,’ he said. ‘I feel there is a very deep understanding between myself, the university and the students.
‘I think they chose me initially because young people need role models. I’m very proud they asked me as it gives me an opportunity to meet and talk with the students, particularly those of Pakistani origin. There’s a large population of second generation Pakistani Brits here, and they look up to me. They grew up looking up to me because of the cricket. I find the young people fascinating. And it’s particularly good to see the Asian and English groups integrating so successfully.’
Khan has used the expertise on offer in Bradford to help set up his own university back home in Pakistan. Namal College in Mianwali, a district of particularly high unemployment and poverty, is now offering scholarship-funded higher education and degrees overseen by its official associate college – Bradford University.
‘This was a great opportunity for me to use the expertise here in Bradford to set up a world class university in Pakistan. They have been truly wonderful in helping me,’ said Khan. ‘The two universities are now affiliated, so my students in Pakistan now leave with Bradford degrees.’
He is obviously passionate about his university, but it is by no means his only area of interest. He is also a highly motivated fundraiser for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, which he set up in Lahore in 1994 in memory of his mother, and is a vociferous political force as leader of the Justice Party.
‘I am generally quite busy,’ he said, with a marked degree of understatement. ‘I have my university and my cancer hospital, but it is my political party that takes up virtually all of my time. It is the fastest growing party in Pakistan and is most popular among the young.
‘I would hate to be busy for no rhyme or reason, but I am on a mission.
I believe you can change a country through politics and Pakistan is ripe for change. Our country has been plundered by bad governance, but it still has massive democratic potential.
It has a real vibrancy, but we have to fix the whole system.’
Khan thinks his party can win the next election, in 2012, propelled by the support of his country’s young people.
‘It is the young people who are spearheading this,’ he said. ‘My party gives them hope. All the educated youth at home in Pakistan and here in Bradford are aware of the corruption that has ruined our country. And all of them want change.’
Khan hopes his sons, Sulaiman and Kasim, will feel a similar passion for social causes when they are older but, perhaps surprisingly, he doesn’t have a burning desire to see them represent their country on the cricket pitch.
‘I don’t really care whether my sons play professional cricket,’ he said. ‘Although I do believe that sports generally are very good for character building. I think it’s an important
part of growing up. The winning, the losing and the struggling are all part of the process.’
Imran Khan: cricket stats
Khan started playing first-class cricket in Lahore at the age of 16, continuing his career when he came to England to study at Oxford in the early Seventies as part of the university’s Blues team and as a regular for Worcestershire.
He returned to Pakistan in 1976 and secured a permanent place on the national team, facing New Zealand and Australia in his first season.
Khan began to establish a solid reputation as a world-beating fast bowler when he reached 139.7 km/h in a fast bowling contest in Perth in 1978.
He also achieved a Test Cricket bowling rating of 922 against India in 1983 – the highest ranking at the time and third in the ICC’s all-time list.
He achieved the all-rounder’s triple –
3,000 runs and 300 wickets – in 75 Tests and established a top ranking batting average of
61.86 for a Test batsman playing at six in the
Khan played his last Test match for Pakistan in 1992 against Sri Lanka at Faisalabad, retiring from cricket altogether after leading his team to an historic victory over England at the 1992 World Cup in Australia.
He ended his career with 88 Test appearances,
126 innings, 362 wickets and 3,807 runs, including six centuries and 18 fifties.