Saleem Malik was once considered Pakistan's most gifted batsman.
With supple wrists, and silky timing, Malik dominated spinners all over the world but was equally adept against menacing fast bowling. Debuting in 1982, he played 103 Tests for Pakistan, scoring at an average of 43.69 with 15 centuries and 29 fifties to his name.
All of Malik's wizardry and statistics, however, remain buried deep under the rubble of match-fixing after the right-handed batsman was banned for life in 2000 from playing cricket, holding any office and from involvement in any cricket-playing activity.
With the embattled Mohammad Amir set to make a comeback to the Pakistan side, the 52-year-old Malik has once again appealed to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to give him another chance.
“I’m not angry or bitter. It just hurts. I played so many matches for Pakistan, I took part in so many great wins and even single-handedly won and saved matches for my country so why can’t I be given a second chance as others have been?” said Malik.
Malik, who was banned for life following Justice Malik Qayyum’s recommendation on match-fixing investigation that rocked Pakistan cricket in the 1990s, said in an interview with pakpassion.net that he hadn’t been fairly treated.
“I was nearing my international career’s end, so, I was made the scapegoat. They had to find one or two scapegoats,” Malik said.
Rashid Latif, former captain and wicketkeeper, was the first cricketer to blow the whistle on match-fixing during Pakistan’s tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1995, where he had accused Malik and other team-mates of wrongdoing.
Latif’s allegations prompted the Pakistan government to initiate a probe which saw Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman being banned for life, while Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Inzamamul Haq and Akram Raza received fines.
A detailed report by Justice Qayyum in this regard was a reflection of how corrupt practices were rampant in Pakistan cricket back in the 90s.
Malik, who has tried to get his ban lifted on several occasions in the past, was upset on not being treated in a fair manner.
“Justice should be equal for all,” he said, adding: “My question to those in authority has always been why I was treated differently to others? Why was I punished so harshly? Why was I shown no remorse or given a second chance?”
“There are many players named in the Qayyum report who have been allowed to work in international cricket but the fact remains that after sixteen years in isolation I’ve not been given another opportunity yet,” he said.
The 52-year-old said he tried many times to get his name cleared, but was declared “blacklisted and left in isolation”.
“I wanted to make a cricket academy; they wouldn’t even let me do that.”
However, the PCB did clear Malik’s status in response to an application he sent to the board two years ago, but that awaited a final clearance on part of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“The PCB asked me to put my request in writing which I did two years ago. I was later told that my name had been cleared by the board and also by the courts. However, the stumbling block is the ICC which is yet to respond to PCB regarding my case. So, I wait now as I have done for many years for the ICC to clarify matters before I can move on and earn a living from cricket,” Malik said.
Commenting on the 2010 spot-fixing saga and the characters involved in it, Malik said: “Islam teaches us that if someone has made a mistake or sinned and is punished, and asks for forgiveness then we should give that person another chance.”
For Malik, the trio of Salman Butt, Amir and Mohammad Asif deserve a second chance as they have been punished and served the sentences handed out to them.
“I think all three of them can play for Pakistan and they still have a future in international cricket. Amir has a lot of cricket ahead of him, he can be world-class again. He has apologised and should be given another opportunity just as Asif and Butt should.”