Khan was born to a landowning Pashtun family of Mianwali in Lahore in 1952; he was educated at Aitchison College in Lahore, then the Royal Grammar School Worcester in Worcester, and later at Keble College, Oxford. He started playing cricket at age 13, and made his debut for the Pakistan national cricket team at age 18, during a 1971 Test series against England. After graduating from Oxford, he made his home debut for Pakistan in 1976, and played until 1992. He also served as the team's captain intermittently between 1982 and 1992, notably leading Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan's first and only victory in the competition.
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