Shoaib Malik and his reluctant willow

Fact is that Malik’s shattered confidence and a reluctant willow are getting in the way.

Bilal Memon April 04, 2014
The writer is business in charge at The Express Tribune and was formerly a sports in charge at the paper

Sometimes, or maybe a bit more, Pakistan cricket tends to surprise. The package may come in the form of performance on the field, decisions off the field or scandals that cover both.

It did exactly that on April 1 when the team went down against the West Indies, marking the first time Pakistan crashed out before the last-four stage of the World Twenty20. However, many predicted the fate; not due to cynicism but several other reasons as well.

When Pakistan’s squad was finalised, there were a few surprises. What ran as headline was the recall of wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and a once prolific all-rounder Shoaib Malik. The 15-man squad now comprised five spinners –– understandable since the tournament is in Bangladesh and from what has been seen, is a paradise for the slower bowlers –– and five pacemen.

But what caught attention was the place of Malik in the playing-eleven and how he even got there — yet again. The 32-year-old has featured in 59 Twenty20 internationals and still leads his domestic side Sialkot Stallions.

But he hasn’t been the cricketer that he once was since taking off the captain’s armband. His place has been under scrutiny but his romance with the playing-eleven has continued. In the World Twenty20, he was not called to turn his arm over and made 52 runs, with one not out innings, in four outings. If his usage is limited only with the willow, then his utility, which is enhanced by his skills as a spinner, is even further downgraded.

So, what is it that got him a ticket to Bangladesh? Different theories have been pitched but none have been able to fully explain his presence –– except maybe using the cliched experience.

He played three Twenty20 matches for Pakistan in 2013 and hardly made the news. The idea behind his inclusion is, to some extent, his use as an anchor in the middle of an innings. But this also implies that there is no one else better than Malik to fill that void.

In Pakistan, that statement is hard to digest. Several players rue lack of opportunity, but some have been given plenty. Malik’s case reminds us of the way Pakistan cricket and the country in general is handled — through random decisions that are backed by motives beyond the understanding of the common man.

The point is that Malik –– with the form he is in –– is a huge risk. Hoarding a place as important as he does is a high opportunity cost and discouraging for young players.

The team’s recent victories and an overall decent record suggested that Pakistan was well on their way in finding the right combination. However, Malik’s inclusion –– and Kamran’s as well –– for the World Twenty20 disrupted a combination that should have been near perfection.

What did Fawad Alam do wrong to sit on the sidelines?

The point is that maybe authorities find it okay to give some players a longer run on their reputation — and Malik spent years in establishing his name. But the fact is that Malik’s shattered confidence and a reluctant willow are getting in the way. His dismissal against the West Indies, where he made a desperate attempt to connect after charging towards the ball, sums up the clingy nature of his inclusion.

They say life does not give you second chances. Malik’s case continues to defy that successfully.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2014.

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Sidd | 7 years ago | Reply

I do understand the criticism on Shoaib Malik but you gotta understand Sialkot Stalllions his domestic team is ranted highly in domestic teams throughout the globe.. His captaincy has made them champions 6 times in Pakistan tournament. There is no doubt that he used to be a power hitter and really reliable with the bat and ball but ever since his confidence was shaken he is not even half the player he was once.. Now if you want Fawad Alam to come in t20s its no use cause the guy is a good test and odi player but can't hit sixes that often as required by this format .. He has just played one or two innings in flat batting track including a century that was on the losing side as his strike rate is always going to be a question mark...

imran | 7 years ago | Reply

Again this s malik and k akmal, another blog , another column on these two shameless people and our shameless selectors. If after all this these two are around then we as a nation are doomed.

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