The Telegraph
Friday , March 4 , 2016
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Shoaib: Good or bad, I don'tKeep going back to the past

- 'Each one of us has a responsibility to keep the game clean'


Shoaib Malik

Dhaka: Former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik spoke to The Telegraph on Thursday evening.

The interview took place by the poolside at the Le Meridien, with possibly the best view of Bangladesh's capital.

It's located, by the way, on the 16th floor.


Q You must be very disappointed that Pakistan won't be qualifying for the Asia Cup final even if they beat Sri Lanka on Friday...

A Very disappointing... I was hoping for an India vs Pakistan final on Sunday, but we'll be home then... One would have liked a strong performance ahead of the World T20, but that hasn't happened.

The batting has been quite disappointing...

We have the talent, but lack consistency. This has let us down for years, it's not something new. The batsmen need to learn from mistakes. Learn and improve has to be the way forward. As a senior player, I try and help the youngsters... For all the talent, our batting hasn't been up to the mark. We need to improve our skills, get better with technique. Could take time, but we'll be on the right track.

Is there a recipe for being successful?

To graduate from the ordinary to good and great, you need to handle the pressure well. That's the key.

Earlier this season, you decided to retire from Test cricket - that, too, after a career-best 245 against England. Why after such a high?

I'd been away from Test cricket for five years and I'd decided to retire after making a comeback. A gap of five years, especially when you're in your 30s, is huge... Then, there were other reasons.


I wanted to spend more time with the family... Wanted to focus on the 2019 World Cup, which is a target for me... Wanted to allow youngsters to have a longer run, wanted them to settle down at the highest level. I could have played for a few more seasons, but my goal now is different - to play till the next World Cup... Pakistan have been doing well in Test cricket, not so in the two shorter formats. My experience would be more needed in the ODIs and T20Is. That, too, influenced my decision.

But didn't that 245 tempt you to stay on, after all, you hadn't gone public with something you'd decided?

You've known me right through my career as a Pakistan cricketer and you'd know that I'm not one to delay things just for the sake of doing so... Continuing for a while longer would have meant I have only my interest in mind, but I represent my country and, surely, I need to look at the bigger picture, too.

Perhaps, you also didn't want sections of the media to begin asking questions if your next series wasn't impact-making...

It does get difficult in the subcontinent, more so if you are a senior player... That said, I accept that the expectations are higher from those of us with experience... One reason why I didn't announce it would be my last series, till almost at the end, is that focusing on the present would have been tough... Too many other things would then have been on the mind. I didn't want that to happen.

Did the five-year wait (from after August 2010 to October 2015) drain you?

It's never easy... It was tough because I felt I was good enough to play, but couldn't make a comeback for years. However, that's part and parcel of a cricketer's career. I like to train, so I remained fit... I knew I'd get another opportunity, at some point, and that came this season.

It's not that you were a regular in the two shorter formats during that five-year period, though...

I didn't perform, but ups and downs have to be accepted. One good thing about me is that I don't live in the past... Good or bad, I don't keep going back to the past... That's not who I am... I can't change what has happened, but I can certainly try and shape the future the way I'd like it to be.

What kept the Test-specific flame burning?

The support I received from some people, to whom I'm grateful. Included in this category is my wife, Sania (Mirza)... I'd also like to thank the T20 leagues across the world, which helped me stay in touch with the game right through the year.

Did Sania endorse the timing of your retirement from Test cricket?

My wife wanted me to keep playing, but I'm the type who tries to convince somebody who thinks differently... To come around to my view. She did so after I explained the reasons why I'd decided to leave the five-day format.

How would you assess your career?

I should have achieved more, across the three formats. I could and should have more consistent. Small performances have never satisfied me.

You've talked about the T20 leagues... Hasn't the format affected the discipline of the batsmen, particularly the ones just stepping into the big arenas?

Today's greats include Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers... Hasn't the T20 game helped their batting? The format has taught batsmen to handle even tough situations better. The pace of the T20 game has made Test cricket quicker, with so many four-day finishes... That draws more fans to the longest format.

Your Pakistan debut was way back in 1999-00... In this period, cricket in your country has been affected by issues... Often, there has been talk of differences big and small within. Your take?

Aren't there differences within a family as well? Differences are fine, as long as the players are professional enough not to allow them to affect their performances... How can all 15 or 16 (in a squad) feel the same way about everything? I may not like all teammates, but would I allow that to affect my performances as a Pakistan cricketer? Never.

Thoughts on fixing? You played in the 2010 series in England which saw three players, including the Pakistan captain (Salman Butt) being banned...

Each one of us has a responsibility to keep the game clean. It's not for me to say anything else.

Finally... What have you learnt in the nearly 17 years of international cricket?

(Smiles ) Hard work alone pays dividends... Talent gives you some satisfaction, yes, but hard work gives you success. To make it big, you need to give yourself time... You need to put in the hours.


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