“Today I retire from One Day International cricket. Huge Thank you to all the players I have played with, coaches I have trained under, family, friends, media, and sponsors. Most importantly my fans, I love you all.”
It’s 1999 and a 17-year-old spinner from Sialkot debuts for Pakistan against West Indies. The young boy grabs two wickets on his debut match.
The young player was later found out to be a batting asset and went on to score his maiden ODI hundred against West Indies in 2002 when his team stumbled.
The boy went on to represent the country in 285 ODIs since he debuted till he decided to bid adieu. The player back in 1999 was Shoaib Malik.
As we know he has announced to wrap up his ODI career and though he couldn’t end his career on a high note, it will not be fair to say he didn’t give us enough memories to celebrate his ODI career which spanned for over twenty years. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights of his career.
143 against the arch-rivals (2004):
Pakistan was playing against India in the Asia Cup. It was a game of pressure and nerves clearly got on the Pakistani batsmen. Malik came in when Pakistan was 1-2. Shoaib kept his calm and took his innings as far as he could. No other player could score big, it was just Malik striking the Indian bowlers for fours whenever he got the chance, he hit eighteen fours in all and a six and a marvelous innings came to an end when he was finally dismissed by Sachin Tendulkar after scoring 143 runs from 127 balls.
Maiden ODI ton at Sharjah (2002):
Pakistan was up against West Indies. Pakistan shuffled their batting order when two early wickets fell down and sent in Shoaib Malik at number four. He played a little slow to cement his wicket and to achieve a good target. Wickets were falling as he was batting, not a single good partnership was made. Malik stood till the end and scored his maiden hundred at a time when it was much required. He remained 111* from 130 deliveries, with nine boundaries and a six in his account.
Pakistan’s trembles and Malik comes to the rescue (2018):
It was Afghanistan vs Pakistan at the Asia Cup 2018. Pakistan was chasing a comfortable target of 258 runs, Imam ul Haq and Babar Azam scored 80 and 66 runs respectively and as they both got out and the lineup collapsed. But Malik didn’t need a partner to keep going on, till the very last over he kept the fans excited. He was calm throughout his innings and that was enough for him to score a match-winning inning of 51* including just three fours and a six, and he helped Pakistan win the game by three wickets.
The veteran for the rescue (2017):
Pakistan was playing the third and the last ODI of the series against West Indies, with both teams winning one game each. West Indies registered a target of 234 runs and not to be surprised the Pakistani top order collapsed. Shoaib Malik along with Muhammad Hafeez steered the match forward. Malik completed his century on the last ball of the innings by hitting a six and winning the match and series for Pakistan, he struck ten fours and two sixes and remained 101*. For this match-winning knock, he was also awarded the man of the match trophy.
Versus arch rivals at Centurion (2009):
It was the time for the arch-rivals, India and Pakistan to face each other in the Champions Trophy 2009. Pakistan batted first and Shoaib Malik scored an astonishing century which turned the game in favor of Pakistan. His knock of 128 runs from 126 balls consisted of sixteen fours; he scored sixty-four of his runs from those boundaries. Pakistan posted a target of 303 runs and bowled out India for 248 runs and won the game comfortably by fifty-four runs. Malik was declared the Man of the Match for scoring a marvelous century.
At times he was controversial, there were ups and downs in his career but he was someone who always wanted to be the best there was for his team, he wished to play his heart out every time he walked out on the field wearing that green jersey. A down to earth player, a childhood hero for many, mentor for the younger players, Shoaib Malik will be missed by many of us.