Shoaib Malik scored his highest Test score during first Test against England © Getty Images
Shoaib Malik scored his highest Test score during first Test against England © Getty Images

Shoaib Malik is a popular figure among pundits and fans alike in Pakistan. Unfortunately, he grabbed headlines less due to his cricket achievements and more due to his marriage with Sania Mirza. His recent knock of 245 against England may change that perception. The brilliant double-hundred has also silenced his critics who had the opinion that Malik’s best was past him, his reflexes have got weaker with age, he does not has any cricket left in him and his technique is not good enough against short-pitched bowling. Malik was always a decent batsman if not good or brilliant. If we take a look at Malik’s Test and One-Day International (ODI) record it shows a mere just 33.45 in Tests and 34.62 in ODIs; however, when on song, it comes as a surprise that the numbers do not lie in the 40s. He certainly does not lack class. SCORECARD: Pakistan vs England 2015, 1st Test at Abu Dhabi

Sometimes people do not live up to their talent. Malik probably comes under this bracket as well. Not many know that Malik started off as a bowler who could bat a bit, but got more batting opportunities up the order later once it was realised that he had good flair with the bat. Soon he became a batting all-rounder to join the leagues of Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzak; today he strives for a place in the team mainly as a batsman.

Some experts suggest that this 245 may turn out to be a fluke, for there have been others with one-off performances. Wasim Akram and Jason Gillespie are perfect examples: neither was a great batsman, yet both ended with Test double-hundreds — something that eluded the likes of Mark Waugh and Saeed Anwar. However, what separates Malik from others is that this was not a one-off incident. This Sialkot-born Punjabi has been consistent in Pakistan’s domestic circuit for some time and has been in outstanding form in limited-overs formats. The 245 is also his highest First-Class score. READ: Shoaib Malik’s double century puts England on backfoot against Pakistan in 1st Test at Abu Dhabi

Malik averages 34.83 at home and 33.66 outside Pakistan, which is proof of his ability to adapt. Barring Younis Khan, few Pakistani batsmen of late have delivered overseas. So, what is next for Malik if he wants to cement his place in Pakistan’s side? He was rejected by selectors for five years owing to poor performance. Add to it that most believe that one Test double-hundred does not guarantee a place in the team. It is a cricketer’s performance over a period of time that finally forces selectors to pick him as a regular.

What works in Malik’s favour is that Pakistan’s batting have been struggling for a long time. They always had great fast bowlers and a good batting line-up, but currently they seem to have an exiguity of both. What makes things worse is that their prime batsmen Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq will not be around for long. READ: Shoaib Malik slams maiden double century for Pakistan vs England 1st Test in Abu Dhabi

Add Malik’s experience of having led in the mix, and the selectors may want to give him a longer rope — more due to lack of experience in the side than anything else. Having said that, to make sure that he reserves his place in Pakistan team for the next few years he will have to perform well consistently; for that he needs to bring more discipline in his approach towards batting and not throw away his wicket after getting his eye in.

Malik has been guilty of throwing starts away with extravagant shots. That is one area he needs to work on. He may have to polish some of his skills from scratch, which may take some time. He needs to work hard in the nets, consolidate his technique and work on shortcomings like facing short-pitched deliveries. In a nutshell, we can say that since Pakistan is going through a rebuilding process, Malik may well end up squeezing this opportunity but needs his bat to do the talking persistently.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)