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Sadiq Speaks: Shoaib Malik could prove the difference

— 11 February 2019

By Sajid Sadiq, Chief Editor, PakPassion

In an interview in June 2014, a somewhat exasperated Shoaib Malik spoke about how he was not enjoying playing for Pakistan. The comments which sounded ominous were simply a reflection of his personal frustration at that time as the former Pakistan captain and well-respected all-rounder with an impressive international record was finding it difficult to re-establish himself in any Pakistan playing eleven.

This was the year after the 2013 Champions Trophy debacle where Pakistan had ended at the bottom of the table and there was open opposition to Malik’s inclusion in any Pakistan ODI side in the future. And it appeared that the Sialkot-born all-rounder’s ODI career was all but over as he was ignored for selection completely in 2014. The only realistic way he could find himself serving Pakistan was by inclusion in the T20I side and there was a real danger that Shoaib Malik was on his way out.

  • Many others would have taken the easy way out and thrown in the towel but Shoaib Malik possibly inspired by the success in international tennis of his wife Sania Mirza, continued to work his way through the Pakistan domestic system and by appearances in international leagues such as the Australian Big Bash League and the Caribbean Premier League and more recently in the Pakistan Super League.

    Whilst one could say that 2014 was Shoaib Malik’s annus horribilis, it was a testament to his longevity and hard-work that the following years would become his glory years and the rebirth of the all-rounder as a sure-selection in the Pakistan LOI sides was there for all to see. To those who doubted his resolve, it slowly became clear that the evergreen Pakistan player had no intentions to walk away from the game he had loved since 1999 when he first represented his country in an ODI against West Indies.

    Pakistan had always been blessed with immense cricketing talent, but the application of those qualities had sometimes been a problem. A calm and experienced professional like Shoaib Malik was exactly what the doctor had ordered for an excitable side like Pakistan. He has demonstrated those qualities on many occasions and was considered one of the driving forces in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy victory in 2017. This was a tournament where Pakistan came through after an opening embarrassing defeat against their arch-rivals, India, to win an unlikely title of one of ICC’s most prestigious tournaments and whilst Malik may not have been the star-performer during that summer in England, no one can doubt the clarity of thought he would have brought to the dressing room which eventually lead to the impressive victory.

  • Pakistan’s ODI performance has been a mixed bag since the Champions Trophy victory in 2017, with the latest series loss to South Africa not exactly how they would have wanted their preparations to proceed for the upcoming World Cup in England. But the 37-year-old Shoaib Malik’s vast experience, in ODIs which includes 279 matches where he has scored over 7300 runs and taken 156 wickets, is something Pakistan will be looking at with great comfort to help guide them through the battle when it commences in England this summer.

    He may not set the world on fire with his batting and bowling these days but what Shoaib Malik offers to his side is an option they can rely on and an example of that was seen in the Asia Cup where his calm demeanour helped his side to a victory against Afghanistan when all appeared lost in a nerve-wracking run-chase. The same dependability came to Pakistan’s help when he had to step-in as captain when Sarfaraz Ahmed was withdrawn from the remaining part of the tour in South Africa after he was given a four-match ban by the ICC. The all-rounder calmly stepped into Sarfaraz’s shoes in the 4th ODI and lead his side to a series levelling victory which to many was just a confirmation of his many talents. His ability to guide the younger players in the squad and the comfort they derive from his presence in the team was visible for the rest of the series and should be an important factor for the upcoming games leading to the World Cup.

  • Looking ahead to the World Cup in England, Shoaib Malik’s experience of playing previously in England will be crucial for Pakistan when they will come across the world’s top sides in their quest to win the most prestigious One-Day cricket title. Whilst he will not be captaining Pakistan, he will be one of the most trusted confidantes of Sarfaraz Ahmed during the World Cup campaign and who will look for support and wise advice from Shoaib Malik.

  • Those who follow Pakistan cricket will be the first ones to point out that none of the World Cup games, whether against top tier teams like India or Australia or against the likes of Afghanistan at Emerald Headingley can ever be considered run of the mill affairs but the presence of a calm and measured approach as epitomised by Shoaib Malik’s presence could well be the difference between a shot at glory, or an embarrassing early exit from the tournament for the 1992 World Cup winners.

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