What to make of Saleem Malik’s mea culpa?

Published April 29, 2020
“I am very sorry for what I had done 19 years ago. I am ready to extend unconditional cooperation to the International Cricket Council and the Pakistan Cricket Board in this regard,” Saleem Malik said in a video message this week. — DawnNewsTV
“I am very sorry for what I had done 19 years ago. I am ready to extend unconditional cooperation to the International Cricket Council and the Pakistan Cricket Board in this regard,” Saleem Malik said in a video message this week. — DawnNewsTV

Pakistan cricket has never been about openers. The number one and two barely ever stick. Hark back all the way to 1952 — when Pakistan played its first Test – and you’d find a select few opening batsmen who were reliable enough to make their name. Hanif Mohammad and Saeed Anwar — but who else?

Openers just don’t do it in Pakistani shirts. Which means that whatever run piling gets done is done in the middle-order. Make a list of quality number 3-6 batsmen just from the 90s to the present times, and there will be plenty of names — if not an embarrassment of riches.

Javed Miandad, Inzamamul Haq, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbahul Haq — to this list you can also add some from the current era such as Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and even the young stud Babar Azam.

There is one name you will likely forget for sure — that is of Saleem Malik.

Malik — the original Malik — was the mainstay of Pakistani batting for nearly two decades. He averaged 43.70 in Tests (11th highest among locals) and a shade under 33 in ODIs — nothing extraordinary but healthy enough for his times.

But while you would remember all of the other middle-order geniuses and Azhar Alis, you would not remember Malik.

When he was banned in 2000, he was already 37. It’s widely believed that whatever he did was at least on par with several others — especially a certain left-arm quick — but Malik was exemplified as his career had already run its course.

In the 20 years since, Malik had largely disappeared until old pal Inzi pled his case recently, which brought him back in headlines.

Malik, who he was and what he batted like, has largely been forgotten but even those who know who he is, do not know that his life ban was overturned a decade ago. Despite being vindicated and having suffered enough, Malik remains a persona non grata in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and for good reason.

There were reports which suggested that even after his 2000 ban, he still had meetings with people he should not have met. Upon the ICC and PCB’s inquiries, he did not respond — signs of a man who had not learnt his lesson.

Word also has it that the PCB is laying the groundwork to rehabilitate him in a bid to accommodate him somewhere in the setup, which is why he issued a public apology recently.

This is where the problem is.

Even if you slide past the argument that ex-cons should not be discriminated against and that Malik has been through enough, the fact remains that cricket of his era and this era are vastly different. Unlike the Wasim Akrams and Ramiz Rajas, Malik has not remained in the game since his retirement. He could not.

During his time away, cricket has gone through arguably its most revolutionary period. Unless you took your 80s and 90s knowledge and kept updating them, you have no business being anywhere near a coaching job.

When Malik played, T20 did not exist; when Malik played, technique reined supreme not efficiency; when Malik played, Test was the real test, it isn’t now. His dinosaur brand of cricket has no place in today’s game, so then what’s the point of the so-called shots at redemption?

Giving another chance to a player with game knowledge that may not necessarily translate in this era is a needless risk, one PCB has no reason to take. Not when the system still has more than its share of Umar Akmals and Sharjeel Khans, and there are no signs that more may not be on their way.

Malik, for his service and disservice to the game, was amply paid and has paid amply. He has a place in Pakistan cricket team’s history, for which he should be recognised. However, if his apology — even if heartfelt — is a sales pitch for a cushy PCB employment under the garb of remorse, it should fall on deaf ears.

The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi. He sells cars by day and writes sports by night.

The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.



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