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August 17, 2011

Is Malik clean enough to play for Pakistan again?

Sports

REUTERS
August 17, 2011

KARACHI: Soon after the 2007 World Cup, Shoaib Malik was touted by Pakistan’s cricket chiefs as a long-term answer to the country’s long-standing captaincy problem.
The gutsy allrounder, then only 25, was over the moon after being installed as the national captain just weeks after Pakistan crashed out of the World Cup in the Caribbean at the first hurdle. Last year, he made headlines after marrying Indian tennis starlet Sania Mirza. At that time, life was looking set for the Sialkot-born player.
But things have changed drastically for the player since last summer. Today, Malik is a match-fixing suspect and it is not sure whether he will be allowed to revive his international career.
Malik, who has scored 1606 runs from 32 Tests and 5188 runs from 192 One-day Internationals, has not played for Pakistan since featuring in the Birmingham Test against England last August.
Though no official reason has been given for his ouster, it is generally believed that he is on a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) blacklist because of corruption suspicions.
Malik has claimed that he is completely clean and has been making efforts to prove his innocence so that he can be cleared for national duty.
On Monday, he appeared before a PCB integrity committee in Lahore in a bid to get its green signal. However, the committee which was formed by the PCB in the aftermath of an embarrassing spot-fixing scandal involving three of Pakistan’s leading cricketers deferred its decision and will meet again later this week to carry on its deliberations on the issue that also involves Pakistan’s Test leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.
While many see Kaneria — Pakistan’s most successful spinner in Test history — as spent force, Malik is a different story.
A former Pakistan Test cricketer told ‘The News’ on Tuesday that he believes that the PCB will clear Malik for national duty soon and might even think about reappointing him as the country’s limited-overs captain

within the next few months.
“I can tell you that Malik will make a comeback as Pakistan’s one-day and Twenty20 captain,” said the ex-Test player, who requested anonymity.
Some might agree that Malik can make a return as Pakistan’s limited-overs skipper following the retirement of senior allrounder Shahid Afridi earlier this summer.
Afridi’s exit following a bitter fall-out with PCB has left Pakistan with limited captaincy options. The Board has to find a young captain considering the fact that current skipper Misbah-ul-Haq is in the twilight of his international career.
According to sources, even Misbah also wants Malik back in the squad.
Malik, who has also taken 21 Test and 134 ODI wickets, is confident that he can make a successful return to international cricket.
“I have given to the committee whatever I was asked to submit and it’s up to them to clear me for national duty,” said Malik. “If I am included in the team, then I am sure I will give a good performance because I’m a hundred percent fit. I believe I have a lot to offer to Pakistan cricket,” he added.
But any move to bring back Malik is bound to attract strong criticism. According to sources, Malik has so far failed to justify a transaction of 90,000 pounds made to his offshore bank account. “There is a huge question mark over Malik’s integrity and unless he proves himself completely clean, it would be absurd to bring him back in the team. Reappointing him as Pakistan’s captain will be criminal,” said another former Test cricketer.

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