You saw Shoaib Malik play for Pakistan during your school days. You saw him play during your college days. You saw him play when you switched from your first job to second. You saw him play while your wife argued for the remote. And you will still see him play, albeit only in the shortest format, while also explaining to your child, “he is one of the longest-serving members of Pakistan cricket.”
But even after two decades of watching the all-rounder play, you still haven’t figured out what his concrete role in the team was. The 37-year-old is one of the four players to have played on all 10 batting positions for a single team. As an opener or a middle-order specialist or even a lower-order slogger, he had the potential to grow wherever he was planted.
While Malik played several good knocks against arch-rivals India, his best still remains the one in which he married tennis sensation Sania Mirza, breaking the hearts of thousands of Indian boys who adored the Hyderabadi enchantress.
After retiring from ODI cricket post the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, the veteran cricketer played for the Vancouver Knights in Global T20 Canada 2019, the team which finished as the runners-up. After a busy month in the Great White North, India’s son-in-law caught up with CricTracker for a quick chat. Here are some excerpts –
You won a Champions Trophy and World T20 with Pakistan. Regrets of not winning an ODI World Cup?
The ODI World Cup is probably the pinnacle of any cricketer’s career. I will not call it regret, but of course, I would have liked to be a part of the team which won a World Cup. But this is just how it was meant to be. It is now up to our future cricketers to get the job done.
You played at all batting positions from one to ten. Which one did you enjoy the most?
Honestly, when you play for the country, every position feels amazing. But from a technical perspective, I always felt that my best position was number four. Anyhow, I was happy to bat wherever the team needed me.
The best memory from a career that spanned across two decades?
20 years of being an international cricketer…well every year was special. The game has given me several memories for a lifetime but the two that stand out are the T20 World Cup in 2009 and also the 2017 Champions Trophy. You ultimately play cricket to win, and we won global acclaim in both these tournaments. These wins gave my entire nation so much of joy and that’s what made me really happy.
How would you rate Micky Arthur as a coach?
I enjoyed my time playing under Mickey as a coach. I have also worked with him at Karachi Kings for a season.
Which areas do Pakistan need to work on for the 2020 World T20?
I feel we are a very good T20 team right now. Few issues I guess could be wickets early on with the new ball. Wickets in T20 cricket are the key, so someone who can swing the ball would be ideal. Shaheen Shah Afridi was sensational during the 2019 World Cup, and I think he has the potential to do something similar for us here too.
Pakistan is likely to host the whole of PSL this year. This must be great news for you all.
The feeling of playing in front of your home crowd is unmatched. We have been unlucky to not be able to play much cricket in our own backyard. But thankfully the decision of having the whole of PSL played in Pakistan has been made, and I cannot wait to play in front of the packed crowds. Not just for the cricketers, this means the world to the fans too who have been starved of top-level cricket. I hope they will enjoy.
Your favourite India vs Pakistan match of all time?
Of all time? Well… The one in which Javed Miandad hit a six off the final ball in Sharjah. I often watch that to get some extra motivation you sometimes need!!
One Indian cricketer you are good friends with?
The Pakistan team generally gets along with Indian cricketers very well. I have many good memories with Indian cricketers from the regular series we played from 2004-2008. Those memories when we all got to know each other from close are cherished. Till date, I get along well with many Indian cricketers.
Shahid Afridi once said you were the biggest pranksters in the team. Yes? What did you do?
“We have a saying, what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room.” (Laughs)
Your marriage with Sania Mirza came under the scanner due to the India-Pakistan conflict. Any advice that you’d like to give to Hassan Ali as he is all set to tie the knot with an Indian?
Not really. I guess every situation is different and Hassan is his own man so he will be fine. Media always has questions to ask regardless of what you do; it really isn’t a big deal.
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