The most capped player in Twenty20 international cricket doesn’t want to think about this year’s T20 World Cup because he wants to focus on performing well for Pakistan in his comeback series against Bangladesh.
The 37-year-old Shoaib Malik, who has played 111 T20s, has been recalled for the three-match series starting Friday. He last played for Pakistan against South Africa early last year. India’s Rohit Sharma (104) is the only other player with more than 100 T20 international appearances.
“My selection is for the Bangladesh series and I will try to avail whatever opportunity I get,” Malik said while speaking to reporters at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday. “World Cup is too far, and I don’t set long-term goals.
“There are lots of youngsters in the team and they should be groomed — that’s my priority. I don’t want to focus on the World Cup because it is too far.”
In response to a question, he said “captaincy is not the only factor encouraging good performance” and emphasised that a cricketer should give their best shot as a player as well.
The selectors made a selection U-turn and recalled Malik and 39-year-old Mohammad Hafeez to take on Bangladesh after Pakistan could win only one out of their nine completed T20s last year. The heavy defeats included being swept 3-0 by a second-string Sri Lanka squad at Lahore late last year and a 2-0 loss in Australia.
Malik has scored 2,263 runs in T20 internationals at an average of 30.58 and has taken 28 wickets. He quit Test cricket in 2015 as he wanted to focus on the 50-over World Cup in 2019. He retired from ODI cricket after that.
But Malik continued to press for his national recall in the T20 squad as he performed well in the domestic leagues in Canada, the West Indies and Bangladesh.
“Whenever I do get an opportunity, I play in the leagues around the world,” Malik said. “The goal should be how to give your best shot wherever you play, so it’s another opportunity for me (to play for Pakistan) and I will try to give my best shot.”
The veteran all-rounder said he "appreciate(s)" the PCB decision to not award him and Hafeez central contracts because it shows the board’s interest in new players. “Previously this contract was awarded to 30-35 players but this time it has been given to only five players, because the management probably wants to try new players,” he noted.
Malik’s recent experience playing in the Bangladesh Premier League could be handy for Pakistan. He scored 455 runs in 15 matches at an average of 37.91 for eventual champions Rajshahi Royals.
He termed the Bangladesh team as "quite strong" with a combination of both young and experienced players. “We have seen their system grow strong and well balanced over the years,” he said.
Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim pulled out of the tour citing security concerns, but Malik hoped next time the wicketkeeper-batsman will come to Pakistan after getting positive feedback from his teammates.
The government will deploy heavy security around Gaddafi Stadium and team hotels, as it has for other tours since the decade-long absence of international cricket ended last year.
“Only one (Bangladesh player) is not coming because of personal reasons,” Malik said. “I just like to request him that you are not coming this time, but next time please do come and see for yourself.”
The three matches will be played at Lahore on Friday, Saturday and Monday.