The 33-year-old continues to jump hurdle after hurdle, coming out stronger every time
KARACHI: The Lord’s Test spot-fixing scandal of 2010 hung over Pakistan cricket for what seemed like an eternity. While the tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were running from pillar to post in search of an escape, the PCB was busy pandering to the ICC’s demands of cleaning up the game. An integrity committee was formed to investigate allegations of corruption against Kamran Akmal, Danish Kaneria and Shoaib Malik in the aftermath of the spot-fixing debacle.
The trio were asked to provide bank statements and documentary evidence of their assets, with the PCB stating that their selection for the 2011 World Cup was ‘only going to be made once the players received a clean chit’.
An official close to the matter had at the beginning of the inquiry claimed Malik “has almost no chance of clearance”. There was a £90,000 transaction is his overseas bank account that he had failed to provide evidence for. In the end, Malik ended up missing out on the World Cup; either due to the suspicious transaction or due to the indifferent form that had started to plague him.
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In August 2011, Malik contacted the PCB integrity committee after gathering evidence of the legitimacy of the dubious transaction. After ‘due diligence’, the PCB accepted Malik’s submission that an Indian company had deposited the hefty amount in return of his contribution to various TV shows.
But a committee member now recalls that he wasn’t entirely convinced. “Malik was silent for months and then suddenly produced the evidence,” he said. “I can’t deny the genuineness of the source but why did it take him so long to produce the evidence.”
Within a month of his clearance, Malik returned to the ODI fold. Shuffled around in the batting order and sparingly used with the ball, Malik never looked like cementing his spot.
Then started the renaissance.
Caribbean Premier League franchise Barbados Tridents embraced him with open arms and Malik repaid their faith with 406 runs in 10 games during the 2014 season.
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Included in the low-profile KPK outfit at the Pentangular Cup in January, Malik reeled off three consecutive half-centuries to further showcase his form.
Malik addressed the media during a round game and delivered a passionate statement, calmly answering the probing reporters along the way. Twice the PCB media person at Malik’s side called off the presser and stood up from his chair. Twice Malik grabbed his hand and told him to continue the conference. The all-rounder was busy repairing his reputation.
“In the last two years, I was never told what my role in the team was, but I want to move on now,” he said. “I want to play for Pakistan and if the selectors ask me, I won’t travel to Australia [for the Big Bash League].”
But the selectors never asked Malik to stay, and despite his fine domestic form he sat out the World Cup.
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A few months later, Malik captained the Sialkot Stallions to the title in the Super 8 T20 in Faisalabad. By now, the selectors could not help but take notice.
Off the field, Malik became active on Twitter and interacted with fans in a bid to further improve his image. And when Pakistan came back from Bangladesh, whitewashed and humiliated, Malik’s return had become almost inevitable, especially with Champions Trophy qualification on the line.
When Zimbabwe came to town to end Pakistan’s cricketing hiatus, Malik was named in the squad. The Sialkot man had spent years on the periphery of the side, he wasn’t going to let this chance slip through his fingers.
A century on his return was a sign of things to come and in 11 ODIs this year, Malik averages a remarkable 100. His popularity went through the roof when he almost single-handedly dragged Pakistan to the brink of victory against Zimbabwe at Harare, only for bad light to deny the team the win and the player a century for the ages.
Just like in the ODIs, Malik forced the selectors’ hands in the Tests too, and when vice-captain Azhar Ali was ruled out, there was only man who was going to take his place in the side.
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Just like in the ODIs, he had to wait a long time before his chance in the Tests. Again he grabbed it with both hands, scoring 245 — his highest-ever first-class score — to complete his comeback both in the side and in the nation’s hearts.
It has been a long, and sometimes controversial, journey back to the top for the 33-year-old but if his form is anything to go by, he is here to stay.