WORLD CUP 2019
Malik has been battling with form recently. © Getty
World Cups make heroes. The younger ones have an opportunity to announce their arrival in the most emphatic manner. Those in the twilight of their careers are served a final chance to leave behind a legacy. For Shoaib Malik it is the latter.
But, for now, his recent numbers cast doubt over that happening. Since the start of 2018, his performances with the bat have seen a dip. He has averaged 29.21 and scored at a strike rate of 77.62 which is six and four runs, respectively, less than his overall numbers. His overall record in England – an average of 13.63 in 23 innings with only one fifty-plus score that also in a dead-rubber – is not promising either.
“I don’t focus on what is being said about me, but rather focus on how I can perform on consistent basis,” said Malik. “If I think this is my last World Cup, I wouldn’t not do well. Rather, I am going to take it as if I am beginning my career.”
Malik has had an extraordinary run at the international circuit. He started off as an off-spinner, only to later become a batsman who delivered at every level in the batting order. A nearly two decade-long career has had its fair share of controversies — a norm with every Pakistan international.
As a youngster, he was part of a star-studded dressing room, embroiled in the battles of egos. As a senior, he was said to be both a victim and an instigator of player revolts. When he was to mold himself into the role of a senior in 2013, a drop in form got him axed from the side, post which he had to fight for his return.
With the dearth of power-hitters in the Pakistan lineup, something which will remain an integral part of discourse around the team over the course of the tournament, there will be expectations not just from Malik but the whole middle-order to hit boundaries regularly. But for his experience and seniority, which got him selected for the showpiece event, he will be anticipated to carry most of the burden.
“At one hand, I am expected to be senior player. On the other, I am expected to have a better strike-rate,” he said when asked about his strike rate of 81.75. “These are mere attempts to highlight my flaws, but it doesn’t really bother me. I have had enough experience to know how stories are angled, but I don’t care because I don’t really follow the Pakistani media.
“Whenever I have gotten out, 99 per cent of the time it is while trying to hit [slog] rather than picking up a single. I have always played for the team and will continue to do so. That’s what I have learnt from my coaches and my father… After my comeback in 2015, for one and a half years only three players had the strike rate of 101 which were AB de Villiers, David Warner, and me. [Five of the batsmen to have scored more than 900 runs in that window had strike rate of over 100. They were: Jos Buttler 135, Quinton de Kock 105, Malik 105, Jason Roy 104, and Warner 103]. A player needs backing when he is down which I get from the team management and the PCB, but not from the others.”
Malik isn’t the first player to complaint about media. And, he won’t be the last. It is, after all, a standard practice.
But, that it doesn’t stand in the way of Malik, who plans to launch his own show where “players won’t just be bashed on the basis of liking and disliking. But there’ll be analysis based on technical aspects”.