There is a parasite in the Pakistan cricket team. His name is Shoaib Malik.
Picture this: Pakistan lose a match because of its usual batting woes. Who gets blamed? Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Now they are the world class batsmen in the team, so one can sensibly say, they should get blamed. Awas was sensible recently when he stated that the reason why both of them get blamed is because they are the stellar batsmen in the team.
However, Younis and Yousuf have a track record of performing in difficult conditions. Countless times both have done amazing things with the bat which has earned our respect. Younis Khan might not be a consistent century-maker, but he makes centuries in desperate times, when they are badly needed. Similarly, Yousuf has been a run machine for Pakistan over the years. His consistency is unmatchable. He scores 50’s and 100’s so often that you don’t care whether they win matches or not.
However, this begs the question- what exactly is Shoaib Malik’s role in the Test team? If one says he is a batting all rounder, then that is surely incorrect because someone like Younis Khan, who hardly even bowls at domestic level, can bowl better than Malik in Tests. If one says he is a batsman, then one must question why Malik can never perform when real “batting skill” is needed. Why can Malik not perform
a) under pressure
b) on fast/seaming pitches
c) when other batsmen have also not performed?
The way Malik got out in both innings against the swinging/fast ball, demonstrates his perennial weakness against genuine pace. Malik’s predators were Kulasekara and Thushara, hardly whom one would call great Test bowlers.
I know why there is this pattern to Malik’s batting. The reason is that Malik was never a proper, skilled batsman at domestic level and as a consequence, he never developed those skills at international level. Simply because he actually never learned them at domestic first class level, where those skills are learned, which makes batsmen become Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf or Misbah.
An analysis of Malik’s potential (or lack of) can not be comprehensively undertaken without reference to how domestic cricket is structured in all Test playing nations and what the purpose of first class cricket is. First class cricket is the domestic equivalent of international Test cricket. It is the format that requires the highest amount of skill, and the format which separates the “nothings” from the “somethings”. The other two popular domestic formats are List A cricket (domestic equivalent of One Day Internationals) and Twenty20 (self explanatory).
Shoaib Malik averages a paltry 29.54 in first class cricket. Compared to his first class performance, he is much better playing List A matches (averaging 39) and T20 matches (averaging 42). Now let us compare Malik’s first class performance with the performance of other batsmen:
Shoaib Malik 29.54
Younis Khan 51.89
Mohammad Yousuf 51.51
Fawad Alam 56.75
Misbah ul Haq 51.38
Abdul Razzaq 34.39
Kamran Akmal 31.62
Sarfraz Ahmed (keeper) 47.38
Salman Butt 41.39
Shahid Afridi 31.80
Faisal Iqbal 40.11
Khurram Manzoor 41.78
I wonder if this will come as a surprise to readers. Our specialist, automatic selection middle order batsman, Shoaib Malik, averages less than all these batsmen. Even Afridi, who at one time when almost dropped by Malik on accounts of his batting, averages more than Malik.
It is crucial to stress here that this is an analysis of Malik’s Test performance. In ODI’s and T20, Malik is much better. However, it is submitted that there are potentially better players than Malik who are waiting to perform. So now we must come to the question that, if there are question marks over Malik’s position in the team, why is he selected?
The answer is a blunt one, and it is a controversial one. Shoaib Malik commands significant support from a sizeable number of Pakistan’s population, who are willing to sideline logic, common sense and justice in order to support their preferred player over someone else, who might be from a “minority group” in Pakistan. English, Australian, West Indian commentators often ask why other players are not selected to play for Pakistan who have shown some promise. They also don’t understand how a batsman with an average of under 30 can be offered so many opportunities to become a Test player, when someone who averages over 50 is treated like a second class citizen and kept on the bench. It doesn’t make sense to them because they come from backgrounds where merit has some value.
Malik is a waste of space in the Test team. Pakistan must replace him with Fawad Alam in Tests. This is not to support Fawad Alam per se. Alam is sitting on the bench. At domestic level he has achieved feats which someone like Malik can only dream about. Until Alam is given a few matches to prove himself, we can’t say either way whether he is worthy or not. There are many players all over the country who can perform better in Tests than Malik. I urge everyone to realise what kind of calibre is needed in Tests and to campaign to get Malik sacked from the Test team.