Joined: 20 October 2005
Over the years, Pakistan has been blessed with so many talented cricketers, especially all rounders. While many of the all rounders in Pakistan were decent medium pace bowlers, who could bat a bit, this young man comes across as a protg of Saqlain Mushtaq's school of off-spinning, and perhaps the Inzamam school of batting - its Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani cricketer, who has just taken the world by surprise with his performances over the past few months, with the bat, the ball and in the field.
Born on 1st February 1982, in Sialkot, Punjab, this youngster eavesdropped in on Saqlain Mushtaq, one of the best Pakistani off spinners of all time. One can say Shoaib is a Saqlain clone as far as bowling action goes; the same typical Saqlain run up at various angles, the similar release of the ball, the doosra or the drifter… every move is so very much Saqlain.
Malik is taller than his Mentor, and relies on bounce rather than spin. He is not a big turner of the ball, but can be effective in helpful conditions. Having started off as an Off Spinner to support Saqlain, Malik shifted roles and went on to concentrate more on his batting. Actually, one can say his batting talents were not given the recognition early on. He was seen as a bowler who could throw his bat around.
He was not a regular top order batsman until early 2004, when Pakistan was looking for one desperately. Saeed Anwar had gone, and with him the top order forgot to click when it was needed. At such a situation Malik was a Boon for Pakistani Cricket. Initially his bating prowess was not talked about, because his contributions were from the lower half of the batting card. But seemingly, he was the underdog of the team, a silent performer doing more than what he was looking capable of. The knocks got higher, the runs flowed faster, soon more leverage was given to his batting.
He has had his share of good runs with the willow. The lucky wheel spun his way early in his career, after living among the tail-enders of Pakistani Cricket at No.10 and 9, he made his daring super knock of 44 coming in a touch early at No.8 against SL in Sharjah in 2000-01, and never looked back since. Promoted up the order to pump scoring rates, he made a sublime 111* against West Indies at Sharjah in 2001-02. He followed his first century with another, this time against New Zealand in Pakistan in 2002 at Lahore.
Two other centuries have come for Malik, both in the Asia Cup 2004 in Sri Lanka, when he tormented the Hong Kong team and the Indians, for his Highest ODI score of 143, both at Colombo (though at different grounds). The innings against India at Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in that Asia Cup match was a spectacle to behold! The Indian Bowling was taken apart and the sixes and boundaries were a sight to see. He simply turned on the heat on the Indians who were coming back from a break. He quickly froze them into icicles, and decimated the bowling as the bowlers looked hapless.
An average of 31.74 is not a something that a top order batsman should boast of, but Malik has barely taken over the Number Three Spot for six months now. So one should be fair to say that he has made a lot of runs consistently ever since. The interesting fact about Malik's ODIs is that they have been revolving mostly in the sub continent, with maximum matches in Pakistan and Sharjah. Outside Asia, he has barely played a handful of games in Australia, NZ and England.
The test scenario was not Shoaib Malik's cup of tea! He has played few tests, he was never considered for tests; with Arshad Khan, Danish Kaneria being specialist spinners. His batting was never technically perfect, so he was never considered early on. Now with the ODI success, he demanded a place in the test side; and did pretty well, in the few tests he has played. He is the Blue Eyed Boy of Pakistani Cricket, the Captain's favorite. His cricketing sense can be compared to the Wind: always on and free flowing like the Wind; be it batting bowling or fielding. He is always there to be good out there and play the game, with the pleasure of a schoolboy getting a day off! The passions of a youngster can really be seen and felt seeing this cricketer play.
This young man has played a bit of county cricket for Gloucestershire, and that has helped him tune himself in English conditions, though he hasn't had a big stint with the ball and bat. Age is at his side, and youth can rule the World with just a little bit of patience laced with the guile, which comes along as one trudges along the cricketing seasons. All Malik needs to do now, is put a prize on his wicket every time he walks in to bat, so that the consistency factor is on his side.
For Malik to be King of the World, much is left to be seen of this all rounder. Let us welcome this Windy Cricketer who breezes on into a new phase of his career, where his Windy Approach will take him to meteoric heights!
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