Born February 1, 1982, Shoaib Malik is a Pakistani all-rounder who has served as captain of the national team in the past. A middle-order batsman, Malik bowls useful off-spinners whenever his team requires. As a matter of fact, Malik started his career as a bowler and batted as low as No. 10 in his early days in international cricket. Perhaps the most famous moment in his life came when he married India’s Tennis sensation Sania Mirza. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 12 facts from the life of the controversial cricketer, who bid adieu to Test cricket immediately after playing his career best knock of 245.

1. Early life: Shoaib Malik grew up in his hometown of Sialkot. He started playing tape-ball cricket in the streets as a child and that is when his interest in the game developed. He used to get scolding from his family for playing cricket, as they wanted him to focus on his education. But Malik was destined to achieve name and fame in the sport.

2. Coaching: After playing street cricket, Malik began taking cricket seriously and in 1993-94, he attended one of Pakistan’s greatest cricketers Imran Khan’s coaching clinics in Sialkot. He started off as a batsman, and developed his bowling later.

3. First major tournament: As a 14-year-old, Malik was selected to play in the Lombard Under-15 (U-15) Challenge in 1996. The same year, he attended trials for the U-15 World Cup and was selected in the squad for his bowling.

4. Resemblance to Saqlain and the debut series: Malik’s bowling action is quite similar to that of Saqlain Mushtaq, who had made his debut for Pakistan just when Malik started playing First-Class cricket. For many, watching Malik was like watching a young Saqlain. Incidentally, Malik got his first international call-up in the year 1999, when he was selected to replace an injured Saqlain, as part of Pakistan’s ODI squad for the triangular series against West Indies and Sri Lanka in Sharjah. Malik played five games in that series and was the second highest wicket-taker for Pakistan with nine wickets at an outstanding average of 18.11 and an excellent economy of 4.16.

5. Trivia: Along with the likes of Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle and Ashish Nehra, Malik is from that rare breed of players who made their debut in the 1990s and are still active in international cricket.

6. Jack of all trades: Malik is one of the very few cricketers who have played in every position from one to 10 in ODIs.

7. Malik the batsman: After batting in the tail, Malik was first promoted to No. 4 during 2002 ODI series against West Indies at Sharjah. In his very first innings in the middle order, Malik scored 111 not out. He notched up another ODI hundred two matches later, albeit as an opener. Since then, he has scored over 6,000 runs from 232 ODIs at an average just above 34. He also has close to 1,900 Test runs at an average of 35.14 to his name.

8. National captaincy: Malik flourished as a batsman under the leadership of Inzamam-ul-Haq and coach late Bob Woolmer. The former had also identified him as a future captain and believed he had a calm head over his shoulders. Following Woolmer’s tragic death and Inzamam’s retirement after ICC World Cup 2007, Malik was chosen to lead Pakistan after Younis Khan turned the offer down. In 33 innings as captain, mostly at No. 5 with a few as an opener, Malik notched up 1,225 runs at an average of 43.75. He scored one century and 10 fifties during this period. His captaincy period, however, was marred by politics and controversies. He lost trust of the seniors, namely Mohammad Yousuf, Younis, Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, and Abdul Razzaq, as all of them felt that one of them should have been leading the team. Malik was being termed as a ‘termite’ and a ‘negative person’, whose presence was not good for the team. Eventually, his run as captain was cut short in 2009 due to team politics, even as he did reasonably well as a captain.

9. In and out of the team: Throughout his career, Malik faced several axes and several recalls to the team. He batted in all positions between Nos. 3 and 8 during the four years between 2009 and 2013 and in the 39 ODI innings during this period, Malik managed to score only 741 runs at an average of 21.17. As a result, he was dumped from the team. However, he made a remarkable comeback in 2015 and has been a permanent member ever since. He was even brought back to the Test side the same year, but he announced retirement from the format after slamming career-best 245 against England.

10. Domestic captaincy: In domestic cricket, Malik is a very successful captain as against his stint with the national team. As skipper of Sialkot Stallions he has a record eight domestic T20 titles under his belt, the most recent coming on May 18, 2015.

11. Controversies: Malik’s bowling action came under suspicion on multiple occasions during his career. In 2001, PCB first inspected his action and declared his ‘doosra’ or the other one as illegal. In 2004, his bowling was once again reported to ICC but was cleared eight months later. The same year he was banned for one Test by PCB for deliberately losing a T20 match for Sialkot Stallions against Karachi Zebras.

In March 2010, Malik was given a one-year ban from the national team by the PCB reportedly for infighting within the team. He was also fined PKR 2 million. However, two months later, his ban was overturned and the fine halved. Another major controversy broke out the following month, when he was supposed to marry international Indian tennis star Sania Mirza. A Hyderabad girl Ayesha Siddiqui claimed that Malik had married her over phone and then dumped her without taking a formal divorce. She even filed a case against Malik, who went on undeterred to marry Mirza.

12. Marriage: On April 12, 2010, Malik married Mirza in an Islamic wedding ceremony at the Taj Krishna Hotel in Hyderabad, India followed by Pakistani wedding customs for a mahr of ₹ 6.1 million (US$137,500). Their Walima ceremony was held in Lahore, Pakistan. Malik and Mirza’s cross-border marriage has made them one of the most famous couples in India-Pakistan.

Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik © Getty Images
Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik © Getty Images

Mirza now has three cricket captains in her family. She is former India captain Ghulam Ahmed’s niece and former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal’s cousin. Iqbal relocated to Pakistan in his teenage and went on to lead his adopted country in six Tests. And now, with her husband Malik too being a former Pakistan captain, Mirza has three cricket captains in her family.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)