Pakistan allrounder Shoaib Malik insists he is not getting ahead of himself following his call-up for the series against Bangladesh, and will “not set any long-term goals”. Most notably, that meant he wouldn’t commit to saying whether he aimed to be part of Pakistan’s World T20 squad, saying that was “too far out”.
“I am not thinking about the World Cup; my selection is for the Bangladesh series and I will try to avail whatever opportunity I get,” he told reporters in Lahore. “The World Cup is too far out, and I don’t set long term goals. Whatever’s in my hand I will try. There are lots of youngsters in the team who should be groomed and that is the priority. I also don’t want to make a statement that I will retire from T20 cricket after the World Cup. When the time comes, I will see how things are going.”
Malik’s remarks on his aspirations for the World T20 stand in stark contrast to his fellow senior player Mohammad Hafeez’s, who was also called up by chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq for this series. The day after his inclusion in the side, he declared the World T20 would mark his retirement from all international cricket, suggesting playing in that event is very much front and centre among his goals.
Malik should be more familiar with the visiting Bangladesh side than most. Just last week, he was part of the Rajshahi Royals side that triumphed in the Bangladesh Premier League final in Dhaka. He ranked fourth on the run charts across the entire competition, racking up 455 averaging just under 38. In addition, he shed light on some of the conversations he had had with players in Bangladesh, and his attempts to assuage any concerns players might have about touring Pakistan.
“Players do ask us about how things are in Pakistan when we go out and play in different leagues. The sort of security you get in Pakistan, you don’t get anywhere else. Some Bangladesh players also inquired about security, and I told them that they should come and have a look at it themselves. Only one player [Mushfiqur] is not coming because of personal reasons. I just want to say to him ‘please do come next time and see for yourself’. When the Bangladesh team comes and sees the atmosphere here, I think they will also convince others who aren’t coming right now to come for the next leg.”
As for the cricket, though, he expects nothing less than the sternest of challenges.
“Bangladesh are bringing a strong team. Their system has become stronger over the years. A well-balanced side is coming. But if you look at our T20 team, we have lots of players who have plenty of experience. Babar Azam is highly thought of around the world; when I go play in other leagues, they all praise him. When other players also get chances on a consistent basis, I feel sure they will also perform, too.”
But for Pakistan’s oldest serving cricketer – Malik made his international debut in 1999 – being in this side at all defies expectations. After a torrid World Cup campaign he was dropped halfway through, he lost his central contract, and the possibility he had played his last game for Pakistan was very real. Now, back in the side and with a chance to show his worth as a stabilising influence in a team that has begun to slide, Malik has a simple explanation for why he’s sticking around.
“I’m still enjoying my cricket,” he said.