No-one does retirement quite like a Pakistan cricketer. Mohammad Yousuf’s was a textbook departure, entirely equivocal such that his absence can perhaps only now be considered permanent, some five years later. Or at least it could have been considered permanent if he hadn’t played a number of international matches after that announcement.
That isn’t actually all that impressive by Pakistan standards though. Abdul Razzaq was turning out for the national side some six years after he retired. The latest to deliver a masterful exit is Shoaib Malik who said “the time was right” to stand down from Test cricket, a good fortnight after concluding the time was right for a return after five years out of the side.
That’s still pretty piss-poor as short-lived returns go, however. Shahid Afridi made a four-day cameo comeback before he jacked in the longest format. He was captain at the time too.
Hopefully Shoaib Malik’s got something a little more innovative up his sleeve. We fully expect him to have reversed his decision by the time we click ‘publish’. That’ll set the scene perfectly for him to be named Misbah’s replacement as captain, at which point he can retire again with even more impact.
Shoaib Malik’s always been hugely popular with a certain segment of Pakistan fans and we’ve never remotely understood why. He’s always seemed so nondescript.
He’s long had some sort of PR machine behind him which, as well as skewing our perception of his popularity a touch, may have won over a few people – but it wouldn’t have that much impact, would it? Those who follow sport aren’t generally won over by marketing hype for long.
At least now, with a whopping double hundred to his name, there’s some sort of justification. It’s still not an explanation though. Unless you have recourse to a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of power, explanations have to come beforehand, not afterwards.
So what’s the appeal?
We can only presume that for Pakistan fans, Shoaib Malik seems wildly exotic. Amid all the fast bowlers, wrist spinners and dashing stroke-makers, a lumpen, plodding batsman who bowls a bit of finger spin must really stand out. Local TV probably runs fawning documentaries about Dan Vettori during lunch intervals.
We’re using ‘best’ to mean ‘funniest’ there. Of all the player punishments to have been reversed by the PCB in the last few weeks, the reasoning behind the Shoaib Malik decision was the best.
Lest we forget, Shoaib Malik was banned for a year for being a negative influence on the Pakistan team.
Apparently, since then:
“He has improved his behaviour and attitude.”
Shoaib Malik has proved that he is no longer a malign influence on his team mates and he’s somehow managed to achieve this while banned.
Pakistan captain, Shoaib Malik, is fed up with waddly, disinterested purveyor of two-over spells, Shoaib Akhtar. “Everyone can see what is out there,” he said about everyone’s favourite one-time fast bowler.
Rumour has it that Malik has asked the selectors to replace Akhtar with a patch of slightly longer grass at fine leg in order to improve Pakistan’s performance in the field.