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June 15, 2019

Will Pakistan continue to keep faith in under-fire Malik?


June 15, 2019

MANCHESTER: When the aging Shoaib Malik was picked in Pakistan’s 15-man World Cup squad, there was criticism from various quarters for selecting a player many believe is now over the hill, writes Khalid Hussain.

The criticism has grown fiercer after Malik’s failure to contribute to the team’s cause in their World Cup campaign so far. There has been a near consensus among fans and critics that Malik should be dropped following his highly unimpressive outing in a 41-run defeat against Australia in Taunton on Wednesday.

Just when Pakistan, who were chasing 308 to win against Australia, needed a good knock from him the experienced Malik got out for nought. Perhaps equally bad was the fact that Malik was lethargic in the field and leaked a couple of boundaries because of his sloppy fielding.

He was heavily criticised for the below-par display in the key game by former greats like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. While Wasim fell short of suggesting that Pakistan should have opted for young leggie Shadab Khan over Malik, Waqar didn’t mince any words.

“Shadab is the key man in this side and I think they will look to bring him back in against India. They might go for five bowlers, use four pacers and Shadab and drop someone like Shoaib Malik,” Waqar wrote in his column for the ICC website.

So will Pakistan drop the seasoned Malik for the high-pressure match against India? Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain, has hinted that they could persist with the out-of-sorts allrounder.

In his post-match comments following the Taunton defeat, Sarfraz hoped that Malik could be back to his best against India. He defended Malik’s dismissal for zero saying that he got out to a very good delivery.

“Asif (Ali) was dismissed off a very good delivery. It was a just a bad and tough day in the office for Asif, which is part and parcel for any athlete,” he said commenting on Asif’s performance against Australia.

“The same goes for Shoaib Malik. He is our senior player and I am sure a good innings from him is just around the corner, hopefully in the India game,” Sarfraz commented.

Despite Malik’s lean patch, it’s his vast experience that could earn the former Pakistan captain another World Cup opportunity. The fact that it’s a game against India could spur him so does the presence of his celebrity wife Sania Mirza, who has arrived in Manchester to watch Sunday’s marquee event.

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