Shoaib Malik has said he is ready to take on the role of an opener in the upcoming Champions Trophy, but insisted he didn't want the position to be a makeshift one. Pakistan have included one specialist opener in the squad, Imran Nazir, and are likely to employ Malik or wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal as the other opener. "I have no problems opening the innings," Malik told reporters in Karachi. "I have done it before. But I don't want to be tried in this position for just two or three matches. I want to be given a proper chance for 10 to 12 matches."
Malik, who's played 181 ODIs, has opened the innings in 15 games, averaging 37.35 with two centuries and a fifty. He's opened just once this year. However, he added that to be considered a specialist opener, he had to be given an extended run to prove himself. "If I get to open in 10 to 12 matches then I can prove myself," he said. "I will feel comfortable in the role and I can carry on opening the innings in the future also."
Malik has had a poor time in ODIs in 2009, managing just one half-century in 11 games with an average of 21.44. He had a miserable tour of Sri Lanka, averaging seven in three matches. However, he dismissed any doubts over his place in the Pakistan side. "I struggled a bit in Sri Lanka but I am not out of form and I am confident of doing well in the Champions Trophy," he said. "I am well accustomed to the conditions in South Africa."
South African conditions are conducive to pace bowling, but Malik singled out batting as the key if Pakistan are to win the tournament. He has a fairly good record in South Africa, averaging 77.50 in five games with one half-century. "I know pace bowlers will have an important role to play in the tournament because of the conditions," he said. "But I know from experience that the batting is the most important thing while playing in South Africa. If our batting clicks we can win the competition.
"The team whose batsmen adjust well to the conditions in South Africa will fare well. I don't think they are any starting favourites in the tournament which is wide open as all teams are equally balanced."
Pakistan's only success this year came in the ICC World Twenty20, but their performance in ODIs has been disappointing: they've lost all three ODI series they've played. However, when asked if the lack of international cricket and the unfavourable results would be a factor for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, Malik said: "I don't think so, because we are professionals and we have been training hard. The Sri Lanka tour was a long and hard one and we are prepared for the Champions Trophy challenge."
Pakistan end their training camp in Karachi on Wednesday, and leave for Johannesburg on Thursday.