You’d think baseball players and their cricketing brethren would make good politicians: after all, baseball’s lingo suggests bravado and success (“stepping up to the plate,” “hitting a home run,” “knocking it out of the park”) and cricket’s patois offers intimations of probity and decency (“plays with a straight bat,” and “hit right down the line”). Even for those who like their politics a little more rough-and-tumble, cricket and baseball have their spinners and curveballs, and one can bunt, or sacrifice, or drive oneself into a commanding position. Yet, apart from the erstwhile senator from Kentucky (and hall-of-fame pitcher) Jim Bunning, few baseball players have made it to first base in U.S. politics.
Cricket, on the other hand, has been blessed or cursed by a welter of cricketers who have decided that their undoubted ability on the field of play ensures them success at the ballot box—especially in countries with a small population or where the sport your playing is one your country happens to be excellent at. All-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya is currently in the Sri Lankan parliament; Learie Constantine (who was ultimately elevated to the baronetcy) entered parliament in Trinidad and became a minister; the fiercesome fast bowler Wes Hall became a stalwart of Barbadian politics and was himself knighted; the opening batsman Roy Fredericks was appointed minister of sport in Guyana; and Desmond Haynes, another opening batsman, was a senator in Barbados.
Nowhere, however, is politics and cricket more combustible or exciting than in Pakistan. For fifteen years, the supremely talented and charismatic all-rounder Imran Khan has been trying to find a place for himself and his party. It now looks as though he’s making some headway, with his socially conservative and anti-corruption (and anti-American-drone-attacks) brand of politics. Khan, a natural aristocrat with a last name that speaks of leadership, is a former playboy, who speaks Oxford-accented English and yet is a popular hero to many Pakistanis. We here at the studiously apolitical blog cannot vouch for his political position, but we can gape in awe at his incredible achievements on the field of play.