Regarded as one of Pakistan’s finest all-rounders, Shoaib Malik at the age of 35 continues to impress and confound his fans and critics in equal measure with excellent performances. In 368 international appearances for his country, the all-rounder has scored over 10,000 runs, taken 210 wickets and is an in-demand performer at various Twenty20 leagues around the world.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Shoaib Malik spoke about how he is enjoying his cricket these days, his impressive fitness, impressions of Shadab Khan as an excellent future prospect for Pakistan, Younis Khan’s entry to 10,000 run-club, Misbah-ul-Haq’s leadership, Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy in limited-overs and more.
PakPassion.net (PP): You seem at peace with yourself on the cricket field. Relaxed, without pressure, at ease and enjoying your cricket these days?
Shoaib Malik (SM): Am I giving it away that easy?! (laughs) Yes, I am feeling good about my fitness and my game, but there is always pressure in cricket. With experience, you learn how to handle it and how not to show much of it, but playing any professional sport always has pressure around the corner. I always wanted to enjoy my cricket, it is my passion and what I love and finally I am really enjoying my cricket.
PP: At 35 is it tougher to get out of bed every day and do the practice, the gym work and training that is required at the highest level of cricket?
SM: The discipline and focus required at the highest level of cricket these days is quite demanding, no matter what your age. It gets difficult and yes, it is challenging to keep a balance, but results do not understand sick days, or laziness, or off days, or sleep-ins. Therefore, I am sticking to the basics and the rule is; show up. To me that is what a champion is about, persistent about dreams and determined to prove – day in day out. Our bodies are miracles; they just need to be taken seriously.
PP: Your fitness levels are astonishing, what is the secret, is it the Sialkoti water?
SM: Astonishing may be a tad bit exaggerated though, but, yes, I’m focused on my fitness and it’s important to me and for me. For a successful athlete, fitness must be your strength, or else it gets very tough to make it. Fitness is something that helps you be consistent over a period of time, and I believe that fitness cannot be compromised.
PP: Your thoughts on the career of Younis Khan and what he has achieved?
SM: What an achievement that is to score 10,000 Test runs! Younis Khan’s career is astonishing. A career with nearly 18,000 international runs and an average of over 53 in Tests is just world-class. He is a figure that Pakistan cricket will miss overall. Younis Khan is an example of the high-level dedication and focus one can give to defy the general perception of age; Younis Khan is a champion.
PP: Your thoughts on Misbah-ul-Haq’s leadership and achievements since taking over as Pakistan captain?
SM: Astonishing! The performance of our Test team over the past few years has been world-class. I hear comments that our Test success is driven by the pitches in UAE or other silly comments. I disagree, there are advantages and disadvantages of any pitch in the world, but the fact is both teams have to make the most of the current and changing conditions. To undermine a streak of series wins backed up by rankings is pure ignorance.
Misbah’s career has been loud, exemplary, and one that will be remembered for a never-give-up leadership attitude.
PP: Two experienced Pakistani players are leaving Test cricket, is there any chance of a comeback to Test cricket for yourself?
SM: No, absolutely not. I made my decision to retire from Test cricket and I have no regrets about that decision. I gave up my spot to bring in upcoming talent, and I’m happy to see that there is serious progress on that front.
PP: Mohammad Aamer has not had the impact many thought he would have since returning from his ban, why do you think that is?
SM: To make and keep your place in the international side after being away for so long on its own is quite an achievement. As far as Aamer’s impact since his return is concerned, you must have heard what Virat Kohli said during the World Cup about him. In team sports, your performance is also a reflection of the team, and vice-versa. Had we been fielding the past 18 months like we have been recently, Amir’s impact would be even more significant. I think it is unfair to criticise Amir’s bowling effort since his comeback, his economy is top notch and do not worry we will see the best of Mohammad Aamer as a bowler in the coming years.
PP: Shadab Khan has had a brilliant start to his international career. Your thoughts on him and advice for him going forward?
SM: I like Shadab, he has a good head on his shoulders, very athletic, adapts well to the situation and conditions. No advice from me is needed as I know he’s been getting too much advice these days already. I feel we have a superstar in the making and his focus should be on T20Is and ODIs for now. But my advice to fans and media is to be considerate and reasonable, Shadab Khan is just getting started, give him time and be patient with him.
PP: Sarfraz Ahmed has come in for some stick regarding his shouting at younger players on the field. As a former captain, your thoughts on this aspect of his captaincy?
SM: Sarfraz has a lot of energy on the field to go along with his fighting spirit. All captains have different styles of handling a situation, some have an open-policy for name and shame, others don’t. You improve as a captain with experience, I did too, and so will Sarfraz; I have no doubt about that.
PP: It looks like Sarfraz is going to be skipper across all 3 formats, your advice for him and how to get the best out of his players?
SM: As a player, I feel that Sarfraz is a supportive captain who believes in giving the best for his team. He leads the team well and has their trust too. All of these qualities will surely help any captain bring out the best from his players in all formats. I have high hopes from him to lead our ODI and T20I national teams and improve our rankings, which we have been struggling with.
PP: With Shahid Afridi joining Karachi Kings at the Pakistan Super League, there are some rumors that you will move on from Karachi. Do you see yourself continuing with Karachi for PSL 3?
SM: Really? I have not heard these rumours yet. I am just excited about the next PSL and once again playing alongside Lala.
PP: Karachi Kings have underachieved in the 2 PSL tournaments. Why do you think that is?
SM: Yes we have. The quality of cricket in PSL 2 has been elevated especially with more international names and upcoming cricketers from Pakistan. The team that consistently wins, should have their A-game on consistently, and the teams that do that, reach the final stages.
In franchise cricket or international cricket, it takes time for a team to figure out its winning combination that consistently delivers their A-game. Karachi Kings’ management and the team is like a family, everyone synchronises well and is hungry to deliver. We identified opportunities and worked on them as a unit, and were a heartbeat away from a crack at the final.
PP: What does the future hold for you?
SM: Look, I am in a good place right now. As I said, I am enjoying my cricket. Life’s good and when you are enjoying your cricket you want to continue and do well. I am not going to make any bold predictions on how long I can play for and I have not contemplated an age where I feel I will retire. I will continue to play for my country as long as I am adding utility to the team.
This was first published in PakPassion.com