Saad Shafqat December 2, 2009

Why is Shoaib Malik not opening the batting?

If there is anything this team needs, it is an opener with a steady bat, and Malik has one

In the seven Tests in which he opened, Shoaib Malik averaged 42.60 © AFP
The usual answer is that he doesn’t want to, but that is hardly good enough. After all, he’s an experienced professional. He has ability, depth, and a clever cricketing head. He can look opponents in the eye. Most important, he is playing in a team that has not found a successful opening pair in over a decade. Pakistan’s opening troubles have become so entrenched that the team mentally reduces itself to 10 for 2 even before the start of an innings.

If there is anything this team needs, it is an opener with a steady bat, and Malik has one. Out of 27 Tests played so far, he has opened the batting in seven, for an average of 42.60 in the opening slot that is a cut above his overall Test average of 37.57. Nor are these inflated figures: Malik has opened only against authentic opposition, including West Indies, England, India and Sri Lanka. His highest Test score of 148 not out was made as an opener in a defiant fourth innings against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Of the seven Tests in which Malik has opened, Pakistan have won three, drawn four, and never lost. Admittedly, a span of seven Tests is not much of a trend, but at the very least it is a good omen.

In ODIs too, Malik has fared better as an opener than lower down. Of his 167 ODI innings, 15 have been as an opener, with an average of 37.35 that compares favourably with his overall ODI batting average of 34.76. On three occasions he has opened against an associate nation, but the other matches have been against the likes of India, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand. Of his seven ODI hundreds, two have come as an opener (against New Zealand and India).

Indeed, Malik’s batting average as a Test opener is superior to the several other openers Pakistan have tried in the last few years, including Imran Farhat (32.26 from 28 Tests), Salman Butt (29.23 from 22 Tests), Taufeeq Umar (39.29 from 25 Tests), Khurram Manzoor (27.66 from six Tests), and Kamran Akmal (35.77 from six Tests).

And why else is he in the team, anyway? With Saeed Ajmal in the side, Malik’s offspin is redundant. Even if Ajmal gets replaced with Danish Kaneria for the Wellington Test, Malik’s spin will only be a back-up option.

On the other hand, here we are waking up with great anticipation at unearthly hours, only to find Pakistan with tormenting scorelines like 6 for 2. There is a gaping vacuum here and Malik should be man enough to fill it. He has been included in the team primarily as a batsman. It is only logical that he be used in the spot where not only has he performed the best, but also where his team needs him the most.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    Why does not the team management try imran nazir as an opener in the test team. The indian team uses gautam and viru in almost all the 3 formats as openers whenever possible. Imran and Salman should be given a long run so that their understanding could develop. Or the Akmal brothers could open, after all, who understands one's strengths and weaknesses better than family? This would also bring out the best in both of them, brotherly rivalry can't be bad for the team.

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    Seems to be an excellent debate on Pakistani cricket. Many of us feel Misbah and Asim Kamal should be in the team. However, that would be a temporary fix. Both of them are past their prime playing years. Why not give Faisal Iqbal and Fawad Alam an extended run in the middle, not just one or two tests and forget them for a couple of years. Like what just happened to Fawad, and has been happening to Faisal for a number of years. PCB should select three openers (not makeshift) and stick with them for a while. As far as Shoaib malik is concerned, I feel he has had more than enough time in the middle without showing anything for it.

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    I believe strongly in Afridi's bowling. I think he can rout all the teams of the world and can win tests as well as ODIs for Pakistan.

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 3:10 GMT

    Malik is not solid in his technique and one these pitches he would fail up the order. We should still consider Asim Kamal and Yasir Hameed for our batting line up. Both deserve a fair chance.

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 2:26 GMT

    Malik is ok ,but cant understand why keep selecting imran farhat ,salman butt ,faisal iqbal.keep trying new players.

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 2:04 GMT

    Well said sir, but now I believe he is a big parchi and does what he wants to. Yousuf and him never went along but rather than being replaced, he was ratained at the position HE wants to play!

  • testli5504537 on December 3, 2009, 1:13 GMT

    I think that Ahmed Shahzad should be given a chance because he did well against australia in UAE. He hasn't been given a chance since T20 World Cup. Khalid latif is another option as he also showed some tempramant against New Zealand.

    Can't say anything about butt because he is a good player but lacks consistency. There is a greater probability that he might edge the ball to slips rather than playing a good innings.

  • testli5504537 on December 2, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    team without Younis Khan like salad withoud salt any how what about playrs unity this days in team?

  • testli5504537 on December 2, 2009, 23:23 GMT

    Dear all Pakistan must think of a change in the top order now they should give the chance to those who r performing in the domestic level say good bye to malik misbah they are finished now look what they have done in the past

  • testli5504537 on December 2, 2009, 22:48 GMT

    I think Malik should resign now. He is really of no use. He plays ten games and performs in just one and remains in the team just on the basis of seniority while the other young players are just tested in one or two games and thrashed out because of their poor peformance. Why's that so?

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