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By Saj Sadiq
Shoaib Malik has represented Pakistan on more than 300 occasions across all formats and in this time, he has accumulated over 8,000 runs as well as picking up 178 international scalps for Pakistan. The all-rounder last represented Pakistan in their unsuccessful 2014 World T20 campaign, where he finished the tournament with a disappointing 52 runs at an average of just over 17.
Picked as captain at the age of 25 to emulate the South African formula vis-a-vis Graeme Smith’s appointment as captain at the age of 22, Malik took over the captaincy in all formats after Inzamam-ul-Haq‘s resignation during the 2007 World Cup. Malik, at that time was a popular choice with both Imran Khan and then coach Bob Woolmer, giving their vote of approval. Unfortunately his reign as captain did not last too long and came to an end two years later when Younis Khan took over.
Malik has since been in and and out of Pakistan’s T20 and One-Day International (ODI) sides and not played a Test for Pakistan since August 2010. The all-rounder has in the past featured in prominent domestic leagues for teams such as Sialkot Stallions (FBT20), Hobart Hurricanes (BBL) and Delhi Daredevils (IPL) and is expected to represent Barbados Tridents in the next edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Malik is currently playing for the Birmingham Bears in the T20 Blast and so far this season has scored a total of 153 runs and taken 4 wickets in 5 matches.
Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, the 32 year old all-rounder reflected on his current stint with the Birmingham Bears, his mixed feelings at missing out on a central contract, his initial reaction to Mohammad Hafeez’s comments regarding his selection for the World T20, the issue of Pakistan’s captaincy and his possible return to the Pakistan team in the near future.
PakPassion.net (PP): You’re back playing county cricket, this time with Warwickshire. How do you feel things are going at Warwickshire for you?
Shoaib Malik (SM): I feel it’s going well, we’ve won most of our matches and I’ve been in good form. The feedback I’ve had from my team mates and the team management has been awesome and I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had from everyone at Warwickshire. I’m giving 100% to the team’s cause and I’ve really been enjoying my cricket.
PP: Before you came to England this season, what aims and targets had you set yourself at Warwickshire?
SM: I’m here for seven matches and my aim was to try and help Warwickshire win as many of those matches as possible. Before I joined up with Warwickshire, I’d set myself the goal of helping them get through to Finals Day. Despite playing cricket around the world, I feel that you are always learning as a cricketer. Conditions in England are tough for Asian cricketers and I think coming to England and playing county cricket is beneficial to all overseas cricketers.
I played County cricket back in 2004/2005 and really enjoyed the experience and I was supposed to play for Lancashire in 2010 but due to international commitments, I couldn’t play for them. I’d always said to myself that I’d love to go back to England and feature in county cricket and when this opportunity came up I jumped at the chance. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Warwickshire for this opportunity to play for them.
PP: You’ve mentioned that you are here for seven matches, but is there a chance that despite your Caribbean Premier League (CPL) commitments, you could come back and appear for Warwickshire in the later stages of the T20 Blast if they qualify?
SM: At the moment, I’m just focussing on the seven matches that I have signed for. I’d love to come back and play for Warwickshire and I hope they can reach Final’s day. Let’s see how it goes and hopefully we can reach a mutual understanding regarding the later stages of the T20 Blast.
PP: How do you feel about being omitted from the central contracts list by the PCB?
SM: It’s disappointing but there are also positives about not being included in the list of centrally contracted players as I can then get NOCs easily from the Board to play around the world instead of having to attend various camps and then being in and out of the side. Naturally wherever I get the opportunity to play cricket, I will want to play. In a way it’s good that I’ve not been given a central contract.
PP: What are your thoughts on Pakistani contracted players being asked to miss the Caribbean Premier League?
SM: If there is no international series then contracted players should be allowed to participate in tournaments around the world and they shouldn’t be held back. Playing cricket wherever it is in the world is the best way to learn. Whether you have played cricket for 15 or 20 years, you will always benefit from playing around the world.
I would urge the Pakistan Cricket Board to allow more Pakistani cricketers to take part in leagues around the world. Look at Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal this season, they are performing brilliantly in England. Pakistani players should be encouraged to play in various international leagues. What you learn from playing cricket around the world is totally different to taking part in a camp. When a series starts that’s fine, recall your contracted players, but making them miss international tournaments for the sake of a training camp doesn’t make sense.
PP: Why do you think you didn’t receive a central contract this time around?
SM: If the Pakistan Cricket Board wants to see improvements in Pakistani cricketing affairs, then they need to be consistent in the way they handle all matters. Whoever is at the helm of Pakistan cricket, whoever is running Pakistan cricket needs to be consistent in his dealings and also the people above the Chairman, the politicians need to ensure there is consistency when choosing people to run Pakistan cricket, including the Chairman, management and players. We are really lacking in consistency in Pakistan cricket.
The Pakistani players don’t know if they will be playing the next match let alone the next series as there is no consistency in selection and this is where we are light years behind other countries.
PP: You’ve obviously got connections with India and I’m sure you would dearly like another opportunity to play in the Indian Premier League in future?
SM: Absolutely. As a Pakistani you can have dual nationality, but as an Indian you cannot. If that was the case then I would have been playing in the IPL, but that’s part of life. Also there are other leagues around the world, the IPL isn’t the only T20 league out there but the attraction of the IPL is bigger for Pakistanis as we speak the same language and eat the same food. In India, the Pakistani cricketers are second in terms of popularity after the local heroes. We Pakistani cricketers are missing the IPL and we hope that one day we’ll be allowed to take part in that tournament.
PP: Mohammad Hafeez recently stated that he was told that you were in the Pakistan World T20 squad irrespective of his opinions. What are your thoughts on Hafeez’s comment about your selection?
SM: I was shocked when I heard Hafeez had said what he did about my selection for the World T20. I could respond to his statement but it won’t change anything. If I respond then there is no difference between me and Hafeez, but he and I both know exactly what happened and we know what the actual truth is.
PP: Well this is an opportunity for you to set the record straight about your selection at the World T20?
SM: I will respond to Hafeez at the right time. I’m here at Warwickshire focussing on playing for them and now is not the right time to respond to Hafeez, but what I will say is that at the moment I’m actually happy to be away from Pakistan cricket for the time being, because if I get chances at major tournaments and don’t do well in a couple of matches, then all the criticism is heaped onto me and I’m blamed for every loss.
PP: Do you feel you have been utilised properly in recent times in international cricket?
Shoaib Malik: Next time I get the opportunity to play for Pakistan I will first ask for some clarity beforehand. For example why am I not being used as a bowler, why am I not getting a chance to bowl for Pakistan when over here at Warwickshire I’m bowling regularly and taking wickets. Wherever I play cricket I get the opportunity to bowl apart from when I am playing for Pakistan.
I’ve always wanted to play and still want to play as an all rounder for Pakistan. I’m one of the most senior cricketers in the Pakistan team but I don’t know where I’m going to be batting in the next match and that is ridiculous. I don’t wish to make excuses, but I know what’s been happening when I’ve been in Pakistan squads and those people who are doing all these things to me in Pakistan cricket know what’s been happening.
PP: Your critics point at your international record and say that you have underachieved. What do you say to those critics in response?
SM: I disagree as I feel for the early part of my career I performed well, but I do admit that after 2009/2010 I’ve not done as well as I should have. I know who is constantly criticising me within Pakistan cricket and what their agendas are. I’ve told those people and also the PCB that don’t worry I don’t want the captaincy so don’t be scared. I’ve been sent in at number seven or eight in a Twenty20 match with a few overs left, what am I supposed to do then, what do they expect of me, do they expect me to go and score a fifty!
PP: Your captaincy stint ended in controversy and must have left a bitter taste in your mouth?
SM: The issue was that there were ego problems and some team mates did not want me to succeed as captain. It wasn’t just team mates who didn’t want me to succeed but also some other people involved in Pakistan cricket who had influence and wanted me to fail. It’s a tough job even with the support of team mates and even tougher, when you don’t have everyone backing you.
PP: Why can’t Pakistan cricket succeed with a young captain who leads the team for five to 10 years as South Africa did by appointing Graeme Smith when he was just 22 years old?
SM: Because of the same ego problems that I mentioned in the previous answer. There are some players, as there were in the past, who do not like to see some of their team mates do well. Those same players want to be superstars themselves but don’t want others to become superstars and that’s why we are lacking and why we aren’t producing players who are world class.
PP: What are your thoughts on the Pakistani captaincy in the future particularly when Misbah-ul-Haq retires?
SM: The PCB should be speaking with Misbah-ul-Haq about his plans for the future and ask him how long he wishes to carry on in international cricket. There has to be some clarity and dialogue between the Board and Misbah on his future as only then can a successor be groomed. As I mentioned before there has to be consistency in the selection of captains and the approach in selecting a captain irrespective of whether that captain is an inexperienced player or an experienced cricketer. Also the captain has to be given a decent amount of time to impose himself and his ideas on his players. Give the captain two or three years at least and give him clear goals and targets so there is no ambiguity and ill feeling if that captain has to be replaced at the end of those two to three years.
PP: If the Pakistan Cricket Board in future asked you to lead the Pakistan side, would you accept the challenge again?
SM: If they asked me before the 2015 World Cup then I wouldn’t be able to do it. If the Board asked me after the 2015 World Cup and the offer came with clarity about my role and the appropriate support then I would think about it. I feel I’m the sort of captain who can produce good players without being selfish. I’ve never been selfish and have always put the team ahead of individual aims.
PP: Is that desire and hunger still in you to play for Pakistan or have you had enough of international cricket?
SM: I appreciate that fans are thinking that I am playing the twenty-over format more than any other format. But if I am not getting the opportunities to play in Test cricket or One-Day Internationals then that just leaves T20s for me. I’m keen to participate in T20 leagues around the world but I still want to play all three formats for Pakistan. I’m fit enough, the desire is still there, the hunger is there to play for Pakistan and I feel that from 30 to 37 are your best cricketing years as a batsmen. I’m enjoying my T20 cricket wherever I am playing in the world but honestly speaking right now I’m not enjoying playing for Pakistan.
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