Shoaib Malik will be in Pakistan’s XI in their game against India at Old Trafford on Sunday. Malik’s participation in the game has been the subject of some speculation after a series of poor returns in the World Cup, but in a rare public show of faith, both Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur have confirmed that he will play.
Malik has played in two of Pakistan’s games in this campaign, making 8 and 0 against England and Australia. Those numbers are part of a longer run of low returns since the start of 2018 – averaging 26 across 29 games, with just three fifties and a strike rate under 80. And those, in turn, are part of an even longer history of poor scores in England: in 28 ODIs since 2001, he averages 13.57, the lowest by any visiting batsman with a minimum of 20 innings in the country.
He had a poor game in the field against Australia, though his seven overs across the two games have come in handy. But since then, Sarfaraz has backed him in a column written for the PCB website and, on Saturday, Arthur all but confirmed he would play.
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“I can tell you a guy that’s played over 200 ODIs, tomorrow presents a real opportunity for him,” Arthur said. “As far as I’m concerned, Shoaib Malik didn’t play the West Indies game because of balance. He batted in the last three overs against England and failed against Australia.
“So to say he’s failed, there’s not much of a barometer just yet. That will be determined over the next couple of games. What I do know is Shoaib Malik brings a hell of a lot to our dressing room. He is an incredible team man. He has incredible skills, and I’m hoping that, on the biggest stage tomorrow, those skills come to the fore.”
There was a time in Malik’s career, across the middle of the poor returns, when his record against India stood out. But it has been nearly a decade since his Champions Trophy hundred against them at Centurion and, in limited opportunities since, he averages just 33 against them, with a solitary fifty.
That’s worth noting because Pakistan still seem to believe that his performances against India hold relevance for Sunday. That and his experience.
“Let’s not forget – I mentioned it in one of the previous questions – that is still a fairly young cricket team,” Arthur said. “Shoaib Malik’s experience, Mohammad Hafeez’s experience tomorrow will go a long way out in the middle to help these young boys through it.”
Malik, 37, has already said that he will be retiring from ODI cricket after this World Cup.