Imran Khan is probably the greatest cricketer that ever lived. Top 5 fast bowler. Possibly top 3. Very decent middle/ lower order batsman. Succeeded all over the world over a long and storied career. Never ever gave up at any given situation. Stood up to the very best and almost always won every head-to-head battle.
If you think that is not enough to be called the greatest ever, then I hope you at least agree with me that apart from Bradman and Sobers one cannot rank anyone above him casually.
And when we rank cricketers we usually consider their test careers. (Will anyone ever have the balls to say Bevan was a superior cricketer compared to Border based on their ODI stats?)
Now... I know how big the 1992 World Cup win was for Pakistan. It was just amazing how they came back from behind - they were on the verge of elimination - to win the tournament.
But I never bought the "cornered tigers" bull****. I have written before that I am not a fan of Imran's style of captaincy. Autocratic leadership works only when the team members are not focused, not educated and not disciplined. He was the right man at the right time for the right country for the right bunch of people. He would not have been able to get his way with that style of leadership over the 80s WIndies or the 00s Indians. (Could've worked with the 2010's WIndies) But that argument is for another day.
Botham and Imran were among the four great all rounders of the 80s. As it stands, for posterity, Imran's reputation is that of a great great cricketer. Botham's is that of a once-upon-a-time great cricketer who ended up as a mediocrity.
My point is this: Had England won the final against Pakistan, would we be remembering Botham with more fondness and respect and Imran's captaincy with less respect (even though his test series wins in England and India and not losing to Windies are big deals)?
The fact that Pakistan won that one big game.... has that added more to the legend of Imran and eaten away from Botham's share of eternal glory? Those two reverse swinging deliveries from Akram, have they added too much luster to the "cornered tigers" schoolboy crap?
Earlier in the tournament, Botham bowled a gem to Sachin to get him in the group game. He performed a miracle against Australia (4 wickets and a 50). Had he repeated such a feat in the finals, he might have become the man of the tournament. If that had happened, would we be celebrating him on par with Imran and praising Gooch for the "cornered lions" speech he gave before the finals to his team?
How important is it to have a World Cup winner's medal to determine a cricketer's overall legacy?