When Imran Khan says something, he says it with conviction, let it be Cricket, politics orPakistan. We got to see that again on Monday. At the inaugural Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Kolkata, Khan talked about condition of Cricket inIndia. He warned Indians, “Get your System right. There is a Tsunami coming inPakistancalled Tehrik-E-Insaf Government and when we do get in power, we’d improve our cricket system and then you’ll suffer even more, so watch out!”

Jokes apart, but Imran really means it. He has always revealed his desire to be at the helm of his country’s government. A successful Leader on the field now aims to lead his country as out of the mess it has become.

Not just Imran, but many sportsmen in recent times have shown inclination to joining active politics. Last year, Sanath Jaysuriya, the Batting-Great fromSri Lankacontested in country’s general elections from his native district, Matara, and got elected to the Parliament on ticket of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). His countryman and one time captain Arjuna Ranatunga has also served as the Deputy Minister of Tourism. InIndia, we have likes of Kirti Azad, Navjot Singh Siddhu and Azaruddin who went on to be the Parliamentarians.

Beyond Cricket too, sportsmen have tried their luck in the arena of politics. Most notably and most recently Eric Cantona and Marat Safin.

Cantona, the King Eric of Manchester United Fans, a footballer turned film-maker turned politician, In January 2012, is eager to run for the post of French President. He also began trying to gather the 500 signatures of elected officials required to make a bid for the French presidential election, of course, he is doing this to get support for charitable work.

Marat Safin is more serious about it though. The Russian Tennis star was elected to the parliament, after December 2011 elections, as a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party. People are already fantasizing Safin as the future President ofRussia- A Hot-head (and HOT!) as the chief ofOh-So-ColdLand, a Show-man leading a curtained government.

I wonder, How Safin or Imran (both handsome and popular ) would handle it if they really become Head-of-the-State.. Really, is there any advantage of being a successful sportsman-turned-politician?

May be yes, may be not. To be true, Athletes do have qualities that are required to succeed in politics as well. They are supposed to be the born fighters, who can take on greater enemies. Athletes care for victory, but they also learn to digest the defeat. They have to work hard consistently. They have to perform in all different conditions, ignore any criticism and be deaf to the heckling. (And if they fail in active politics, they can slip in the position of administrators- like Sebastian Coe four-time Olympic medallist fromBritain, Former Member of Parliament and the Chairman of London Olympic Organizing Committee.)

Athletes always dream bigger and aim higher, and ambition is what drives a politician. Sports also help develops better leadership qualities. Even in individual sports, there comes a time when you have to take decisions that would keep you ahead of the rest of the pack. And if you are a great sportsman, you will find it easier to pull crowd, get the attention and thereby mould opinion.

So can we say that sportsmen would definitely make “good” politicians? Not always. Idi Amin, former Ugandan dictator and one of the cruelest military leaders, was once a Heavy-weight Champion.

The only hindrance a sportsman might have is education. Since they start very early on field, most successful athletes have to give up on higher education. But as we know, and as is the case in many countries including India, education is not a criterion for political success.

But then there are people who excelled in both – like Imran Khan, Oxford Graduate and World Cup winning Captain or Bill Bradley- Rhodes Scholar and Hall of fame Basketball player from America. Bradley tried his luck in Democratic primary in 2000 US Presidential elections; Imran has not yet given up..

-Janhavee Moole


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