Approximately 18 years ago Shoaib Malik made his international debut for Pakistan. He has been captain of the side and right now is one of the most senior players in the dressing room. With every game, Malik, who has played 373 matches across all formats at the international level, grows in stature.
Coaches all over the world ask senior members to give pep talks to younger players. Head coach Mickey Arthur did the same on Sunday when he invited Malik to talk to players after a practice game between Sarfraz XI, led by Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, and Imad XI, led by all-rounder Imad Wasim, at the Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA) ground beside the iconic Gaddafi Stadium ahead of the three-match T20I series against ICC World XI.
“Let go of your egos and you will become better players,” Malik told the players, who took a keen interest in his speech as they sat at the benches of the LCCA pavilion. They did not have much of a choice because of their abysmal performances with the bat.
Imad XI scored just 87 in 18.5 overs as four of its top five batsmen – Fakhar Zaman, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, and Fahim Ashraf – failed to enter double figures. Ahmed Shehzad, who had opened the batting with Zaman, had managed 14 off 17 balls when his offstump was uprooted by Hasan Ali while charging down the wicket to clear the straight boundary in the final powerplay over. Imad XI were 33 for three at the end of the first six overs.
Many blamed the moisture on the pitch to be the reason behind the early dismissals. The PCB shouldn’t have scheduled the start at 9:30 am others said. Soon the batting side was reduced to 48 for seven.
Imam-ul-Haq and Ahmed Bilal, who is a 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman with only one first-class match under his belt, top-scored for Imad’s side with 23 not out and 22 respectively. They put a 25-run stand for the eighth wicket.
The target was revised to 151 in 20 overs for Sarfraz XI. They fell seven runs short. Malik top-scored in the match with a classy 77 from 51 balls with six 4s and four 6s. Coming in to bat at number three, Malik spent 90 minutes on the crease after Babar Azam was trapped LBW in front of the stumps in the third over by Imad.
Partnering with Azhar Ali, Malik ran singles and doubles for the first half of the chase. It was probably to let the pitch get as hard as it could under a hot sun.
There was just one boundary in the first eight overs and that had also come in the first over when Ali danced down the wicket to spank Sohail Khan over covers for a six.
After Azhar (21 off 27) departed in the seventh over, Malik took the responsibility for anchoring the chase. He charged down the wicket in the very next over to smoke Hasnat Abbas, local kid who bowled leg-spin, for a massive six over long-on.
He shifted gears four overs later when he struck Zaman for two back to back sixes towards the end of the 12th over. He was supported by his skipper Sarfraz, who put up 25 off 21 with three 4s, during the middle part of the innings. They put up 57 runs together. But when Sarfraz was caught in covers off Rumman Raees while attempting to smack him over the mid-wicket boundary, Malik put the pressure back on the bowling side with a tennis-like forehand shot for four on long-on and a glorious six on a straight drive off Sohail’s bowling.
He holed out to long-on in the last over leaving his side just eight runs away from the target that proved to be the gap between the two teams.
“I could have also started to slog from the fourth or the fifth ball,” Malik said during the pep talk as he emphasised on the necessity of constructing an innings.
When pressed upon what he had told the team during the pep talk, Malik said: “Being a senior cricketer you have an additional load to be a guiding light for the youngsters. You have to share with them what you have learned over the years during different situations in matches. I was telling them to access the conditions when they go for batting and play accordingly. Obviously one is needed to play big shots when chasing but it comes in handy if you take your time to adjust on the crease.”