SHOAIB MALIK
Illustration- Vasim Maner

He does not get much publicity in the media. He is widely recognized as the husband of his more famous, celebrated and media-savvy wife from a neighboring country. He is an introvert and hence, less popular than some of his other team-mates.

However, his achievements in cricket’s shortest and newest format are nothing short of phenomenal, which is perhaps not known at all outside Pakistan.

He ranks amongst the best in T20 history when it comes to big-match temperament and affecting the result of a tournament.

He is a giant of domestic T20 cricket and the third-highest impact player in the format’s history after Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez (min. 60 matches).

A GIANT OF DOMESTIC T20 CRICKET

Sialkot’s dominance in Pakistan’s premier domestic T20 tournament – they have won 6 out of the 10 editions – is directly linked to Shoaib Malik’s outstanding and consistent performances.

He was the highest impact player in 2005/06, 2008/09, 2009, the second-highest impact player in 2006/07 and 2009/10 and the third-highest impact player in 2011/12. Sialkot were the champions in all these six editions. Malik got a tournament-defining performance (TD – a big performance in a knockout game when your team goes on to win the tournament) in four of them – a monumental achievement and a staggering record.

Malik has 5 series/tournament defining performances in his career. Only Samuel Badree with 7 such performances has more. Kieron Pollard, Imran Nazir, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo also have 5 each.

Vs Lahore Eagles, Faysal Bank T20 Cup, 1st Semi-Final, Karachi, 2011: Lahore notched up a competitive 167 batting first. Sialkot got off to a disastrous start losing both their openers early. Malik walked out to bat at 9 for 2 and smashed an unbeaten 88 off just 49 deliveries putting together a match-winning third-wicket stand of 127 with Shahid Yousuf. Sialkot sailed through by six wickets with seven balls to spare. Malik had also picked up the wickets of the Lahore openers.  This was a tournament-defining performance by Malik (TD) as Sialkot went on to win their sixth T20 title in seven years beating Rawalpindi Rams by 10 runs in the final (where Malik contributed a quickfire 43 off 27 balls). 

Malik’s record as a batsman is exceptional too. He is the third-highest impact batsman in domestic T20 history after Imran Nazir and Suresh Raina.

His Runs Tally Impact (proportion of team and opposition runs scored) is the third-highest in T20 domestic history after Shaun Marsh and Chris Gayle.

He has also been the best partnership-builder (after Marsh) and the most consistent batsman (with a failure rate of just 30%) in the history of domestic T20 cricket.

Batting is his stronger suite with a 129% higher impact than his bowling. Having said that Malik has been a genuine all-rounder in domestic T20 cricket.

A WORLD-WIDE ACHIEVER

Shoaib Malik has not just been a great T20 player in familiar conditions at home. He has proved his mettle in all the major leagues all over the world.

Vs Jamaica Tallawahs, Caribbean Premier League, Jamaica, 2014: Barbados Tridents are in tatters (chasing 147). Malik walks out to bat at 11 for 2. Wickets continue to tumble (27 for 3, 69 for 4, 79 for 5). But Malik counter-attacks from the other end. It is a one-man show. He blasts an unbeaten 81 off just 43 deliveries (including 5 fours and 6 sixes) but with absolutely no support from any other batsman (the next highest score in the innings is shockingly 9), Barbados fall short by 19 runs.
Two weeks later, Malik gives a tournament-defining performance in the final against Guyana Amazon Warriors. Coming in to bat at 8 for 2, he scores an unbeaten 55 off just 42 balls to take Tridents to a competitive 152. Guyana fall short by 8 runs (D/L method), their innings reduced by rain to 15.5 overs.

Representing Warwickshire, he was the third-highest impact batsman for them in the premier English Domestic T20 championship in 2014 – he did not fail as a batsman in even one of the six matches.

He was also the second-highest impact batsman and player for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League 2014/15.

UNDERACHIEVER IN T20 INTERNATIONALS

Pakistan has won the maximum games for any team in T20I history. They have the third-best win-loss ratio of 1.49 (behind India and South Africa). They were the World T20 champions in 2009, runners-up in 2007 and semi-finalists in 2010 and 2012.

It comes as a surprise then, that Malik, hasn’t had the kind of success playing for his country as he has had in domestic T20s. His impact as a batsman in T20Is is 96% lower than his impact in domestic T20s. His consistency as a player also drops significantly from domestic to international T20 cricket – from a failure rate of 21% to a failure rate of 42%.

A part of it could have to do with team dynamics and comfort levels. But there seems to be another significant reason – which is similar to India’s highest impact T20 player Suresh Raina’s.

Malik batted in the top 4 for most of his domestic career, but got only 33 chances of his 76 innings to bat in the top-order in T20Is. This deviation from his usual place in the top-order could be a major reason for his significant drop in impact. Malik’s forte was his ability to build an innings and score a large proportion of his team’s runs rather than Strike Rate Impact . A change in position to the lower order perhaps took away the time he needed to do so.

Having said that, it brought to fore a quality of his which he did not exhibit in domestic cricket – the ability to absorb pressure of falling wickets (second-highest for Pakistan after Misbah-ul-Haq).

He had a fantastic campaign in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa where Pakistan finished runners-up to India. He was the fourth-highest impact player in the tournament (behind Stuart Clark,  Daniel Vettori and MS Dhoni) if we do not take tournament-defining performances into account. He scored 57 in just 31 balls (from 33 for 3) against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg – the highest score of the innings helping his team win by 33 runs. He then scored an unbeaten 52 in just 38 balls (coming in to bat at 35 for 3) as Pakistan chased down 165 in the next match against Australia.

But overall, his high impact performances were far and few between and left a lot to be desired.

Malik’s accomplishments for Pakistan don’t quite flatter but the legacy he has left behind in domestic cricket and the sheer weight of his performances make him a colossus in T20 cricket.

His wife, Sania Mirza has become a legend in womens’ doubles. But there is another champion at home, who is very much amongst the best in arguably the most popular format of his sport.

 

 

Nikhil Narain

NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.