Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi January 21, 2009

Malik questions Shoaib's commitment


Shoaib Akhtar conceded 88 runs off 13 overs in the back-to-back games against Sri Lanka in Karachi, taking only one wicket © AFP

In the most significant statement of his captaincy thus far, Shoaib Malik has effectively put a question mark over the international future of Shoaib Akhtar, openly doubting his fitness and commitment in the field. Younger fast bowlers impressing on the domestic circuit, said Malik, should now be given a chance to prepare Pakistan for the future.

Malik was speaking after Pakistan's 129-run loss to Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Karachi, in which Shoaib failed to complete his full quota of ten overs for the second game running. After bowling seven expensive overs in the first ODI yesterday, Shoaib delivered six largely ineffective and costly overs today. He struggled in the field, generally appearing listless and often unwilling to chase down balls.

The performance clearly incensed Malik, who vented his frustrations after the match. Asked whether it was time Pakistan planned for the World Cup 2011 and looked beyond Shoaib, Malik said: "We have to move forward. There are a number of good fast bowlers around on the domestic scene and they deserve a chance. I will take this up with the selectors and team management and these things will be kept in mind."

The unusually frank response led predictably to a volley of Shoaib-related questions. Generally a man of few words and often with little patience for persistent reporters, Malik responded to every query, with the same, basic underlying message: that he [Shoaib] lacked fitness and that cricket no longer was so accommodating to passengers in the field.

"If you look at his performances and record and matches he has won, there is no question over his effectiveness," Malik said. "But the question is over 100% fitness. Cricket has changed and if you aren't 100% fit then it is difficult."

All the noises before the series had suggested Shoaib was fit. He had been bowling in domestic tournaments, both in the Pentangular ODI Cup and the four-day Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. His selection, Malik said, was justified, but it may not be in the future. "He was working hard, bowling in first-class matches so it was justified picking him. But we have good fast bowlers around and there is competition. In future, you won't just get picked if you are fit."

He has the ability to bowl 10 overs but the question mark is over maintaining speeds through 10 overs and the determination we want in the field over 50 overs

The first ODI was Shoaib's first 50-over international in 14 months and back-to-back matches were always going to test his fitness. It showed today in his bowling speeds, which rarely ventured over 140kph. Malik said he had resisted bowling Shoaib out yesterday with today's game in mind, but was concerned about the dip in speeds.

"He has the ability to bowl 10 overs but the question mark is over maintaining speeds through 10 overs and the determination we want in the field over 50 overs."

Asked specifically whether he had seen the required commitment from Shoaib over the two matches, Malik was damning. "Everyone can see what is out there. The ability to bowl ten overs is there but the commitment in fielding that I want wasn't there."

The comments come at a critical time in Shoaib's career. After a stellar winter season in 2005-06, injury, fitness, doping issues and persistent run-ins with the administration have reduced him to a peripheral player, playing just four Tests and 11 ODIs since February 2006. But he remains a big personality.

The timing of Malik's remarks are also significant. Since taking over as captain in May 2007, reports of dissent between him and a clique of senior players have been ever-present. Mohammad Yousuf, now an ICL player, has come out in public and it has always been thought Shoaib was part of the dissatisfied group as well.

Despite this, Malik refused to entirely rule out the prospect of Shoaib being selected for the final ODI of the series. "Maybe he has a problem and that is why he wasn't running in the field," he said. "The 15-man squad is there but you can't also just have a new guy come in to such an important game."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • irfan on January 24, 2009, 9:48 GMT

    I think this is high time for the Pakistanis to support Malik and get rid of Shoaib Akhtar. I have no doubts over his match winning performances in the past,but my mates past is gone now and we have to look into the future ,where we need quality strike bowlers to make our team win matches. I think Shoaib Akhtar is still a good choice for the 20/20 matches ,where he only has to bowl 4overs,isnt it? Dear Shoaib,you are an asset to our team but my friend we need to save our assets and not to ruin them up. So my friend 20/20 is the format you should concentrate on and please dont create a scene out of malik's comments as you are one of the most senior players in the squad and if you really want to play 20/20,then stay out of any controversies,innit?

    Irfan Waheed

  • Abdul Wakeel on January 23, 2009, 17:19 GMT

    i guess its time to take the bitter pill..whch our cricketers usually dont do. time to say 'Bye Bye' to Mr.Akhtar. Most of us cant recall his last best performance..atleast i cant bt i stil rememba all his off d field scenes. the basic difference bw our system nd systems arnd d world is v judge players by their past performances whereas systems arond ask players to perform everytime. I really dont wanna say this bt its time to follow d indians..look at Dhoni he tried out players at almost every match durin his inital days nd now luk at d indian team. Malik shud do d same by dis i do not mean to make debutants every match bt nw he shud be more focus o youngsters. a plyer like rusted afridi shud see his subtitue cumin only thn it b justifiable to drop him. Stil things lack in our captiancy as Malik shudnt hav queestiond Shoaib commitment durin d series. bt in d end if powers given to Malik he l prove as a right cure to Pakistan Cricket Team.

  • Farhan on January 23, 2009, 17:02 GMT

    i was very much disappointed by malik's captaincy, why does he have shoaib akhtar in the XI if he is gonna bowl only 6 overs. he is a specialist bowler if malik wants someone to bowl only 5 or 6 overs then get some allrounder like yasir arafat. and akhtar is bowling no matter what his economy figure may look like remember akhtar is a strike bowler like waqar younis give him 10 full overs and it is guranteed that he will get the wickets. and why is he blaming shoaib akhtar or anyother bowler karachi pitch is well known to be the most batsmen friendly pitch in the world on if pakistan scores only 161 on it then its clearly evident that the problem is the batting not bowling. pakistan has only 4 specialist batsmen playing in first two ODI's and lower order is also very fragile to withstand any collapse.

  • Nasir on January 23, 2009, 16:53 GMT

    Pak Cricket has produced great fast bowlers like 2Ws,Imran etc. Then if you look at other teams eg Australia for instance- one is just not in a position to name a few. But Shoaib Akhtar is an icon in himself for his exceptional level of arrogance. Pakistan has always been a country of have's and have not's.There have always been children of a lesser god who at the most are given one chance and then the curtain falls.Shoaib whose repo has been blown out of proportion, promises so much yet delivers so little. Afridi is another one of them. If Sir Bradman is born in Pakistan and fails to perform he will be thrown out but not Afridi.Always in the press for all the wrong reasons i have yet to see Shoaib fully 50 over fit in a one day what to talk about test cricket.The buck finally rests with Malik in case of another hopeless performance by Shoaib That is what has given him the audacity to call to spell out the facts. Otherwise nobody dare say anything against Pak cric's "BHAI"-SHOAIB BHAI.

  • jawad on January 23, 2009, 9:04 GMT

    WELL shoib akhtar is still known as a good bowler of all time but it doesnt mean that he should be proud of him there r better players Umar Gull is taking 4 wickets in the 2nd match and i think he got 3 or 4 wickets in the first match Sohail Tanvir is also very good altough he has not doing good in past 2 matches iftikhar anjum has taken 4 wickets in the first match i think shoib akhtar should be given a chance of playing the last match if he doesnt do well than he should be avoided.

  • quadir on January 23, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    Easy on this. This is purely a motivational tactic from Shoaib to make Shoaib, get, maybe a fivefor and win the match tomorrow. Sure, Akhter is not a 100% but what Malik is saying here is; this is what we feel about you, make us think other wise, be the match winner tomorrow. That there is no doubt, on his day, Akhter is a match winner but he has not had much success with Sri Lanka, maybe our female spectators are a little less motivating, which is sooo good for Sana and Co.

  • Mohammad Imran on January 23, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    yes, 100% agree with shoaib malik. how could any one represent a national team without ability to stand in the filed for 50 overs and not doing so his main responsibility of bowling 10 out of 50. Akhter has already lost his faith with his wrong doings in the past and his unability to work in the field is enough to cost him his career.i honesty suggest you akhter to look for the better career may be in a dancing with actresses on stage in fashion shows rather to work hard for nothing in thr cricket field.If Pakistani selectors are serious for the next WC, they should really get rid off these fusses like akhter and should look for the young blood otherwise the result would not be the different from our last two WC appearances, and we do have a real example of 1992 when a young team led by Imran Khan, Miandad and the ever ready man Intikhab (same couch the then) was surrounded with lot of young guys like Waseem,Aqib,Mushtaq,Aamir and Ejaz and there were no fear of being lost underpressure

  • Aizaz on January 23, 2009, 3:43 GMT

    I am also disappointed with the performance of Shoaib akhtar in these past two ODI's but Malik needs to understand that this is Shoaibs come back series and he will not be performing as much as we want him to and as for his commitment Shoaib has always been like this and every captain dealt with him and so should Malik. Shoaib is a match winner and more matches he plays the better he performs. Shoaib has a very good cricket brain as far as I am concerned, hes not only fast but knows how to variate his speed, where to pitch the ball to certain batsman and reverse swing as we all now. Shoaib needs time and if we are lucky the Rawalpindi Express might just comeback.

  • kamran on January 23, 2009, 1:24 GMT

    Shoaib Malik's captaincy lost us the match. First, fielding instead of batting was a wrong decision. Second, not applying pressure to stop srilanka's singles showed to me what kinda a captain he really is. Shoaib Akhter didn't perform well true, but he looked fitter. Pitches were batting friendly and Sri Lanka is a very good team. Shoaib Malik needs to understand when their is a new batsman apply pressure or when someone is on 49 runs for example. I guess he never played street cricket, because every kid on the block knows these basic fundamentals of playing good cricket.

  • Mohsin on January 22, 2009, 20:19 GMT

    Malik is absolutely right! Actor sorry Akhtar has seen his best ! He is no more required at country level he should go and play in IPL.

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