36-year-old says that he will only continue playing till the point his fitness and form deserts him
Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik has reiterated his desire to represent Pakistan in the next couple of mega events — ICC World Cup 2019 and World T20 in 2020 — permitting his form and fitness do not desert him.
Malik was out of the ODI side since the 2013 Champions Trophy but made his comeback during the Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan in May 2015 — where he made a blockbuster return to the international fray with 112-run knock off just 76 balls.
Since his comeback, the 36-year-old has amassed 1,525 runs at an average of 47.65 and a strike rate of 98.13 — making him the third highest run getter for Pakistan during that span of time. Also during that time, no Pakistan cricketer has hit more sixes (46) than him.
Speaking to the media at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Friday, the 36-year-old said that he has based his entire career on honesty and this is exactly the manner in which he wants it to end.
“As I stated earlier that 2019 World Cup is my final ODI tournament while I intend to prolong my T20I career till the World T20 in 2020,” he said. “Having said that, if at any stage before that point, I feel that I can no longer perform to the best of my ability with my fitness or my performance is not up to the mark, I will take retirement because playing the game with honesty has always been my priority.”
Pakistan are set to play India on September 19 in the Asia Cup and speaking about the high-profile clash, Malik said that it is fruitless to create unnecessary pressure leading upto the match.
“I think that the match against India is just another game and we should avoid creating hype as it adds unnecessary pressure,” he said.
Over the years, Malik has developed a liking for India and its bowlers as four out of his nine ODI centuries have come against them — two of those hundreds have come during the Asia Cup — while his overall tally stands at 1661 runs in 39 matches with an average of 47.45 at a strike rate of 89.44.
But the veteran all-rounder added that this particular match provides players with a great opportunity to steal the limelight.
“This is perhaps the only cricket match that the entire cricket fraternity watches and not only India and Pakistan fans which is why it provides a massive opportunity to players if they want to become a hero,” he said.
In the past five years, Pakistan have only registered three totals — in 16 outings — of more than or equal to 250 while batting in the second innings of a day-night ODI in UAE.
Their highest score is 292 which came against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi during the Kiwi team’s tour in 2014. During the same span of time, on seven occasions their total was less than 200.
“Playing in UAE gives us an advantage but it is not as easy as people think it is,” said Malik. “If you notice our track record here, it is better in Test cricket but when it comes to playing the shorter formats our performances aren’t extraordinary. People need to understand that batting under lights here is difficult as conditions are different but that does not mean there isn’t room for improvement. We will continue working to improve in this particular area.”
In 12 Asia Cup matches Malik has played over the course of his career, the Multan Sultans captain has scored 575 runs at an average of 63.88 with three centuries to his credit, but the veteran all-rounder is not keen on underestimating any side during the upcoming event.
“We don’t want to underestimate any team during the tournament because I believe that ODIs are following a pattern similar to that in T20I cricket which is why I don’t consider any team weak,” he said.
Malik also highlighted the important factors behind becoming a successful ODI side and hoped that the team would continue performing well in the Asia Cup as well.
“I believe that it is important to have 2-3 bowlers who can pick up wickets during the middle overs in order to break momentum of the opposing sides,” he said. “While the batsmen batting at the top of the order, positions one to three, should score bulk of the runs if the team is to post a good total on the board. We are glad that our top three are in great form and we expect them to continue their good run in the upcoming Asia Cup as well.”
Malik also refrained from commenting on fellow veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez’s exclusion from the national side but he firmly believes that the player and board must resolve any issue with mutual understanding.
“That does not come under my domain as it goes against a player’s contractual obligations,” he said. “Although I must say that every player tries his best to perform the given task in the best possible manner but I cannot give my verdict on whether excluding him [Hafeez] was the correct decision or not.”
He added: “I’m against this distinction of respect between senior and junior players. I feel that if a problem arises, the player and the board must resolve the issue with mutual understanding.