In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the fifty-two year old Saleem Malik looked back at the highlights of his career, the Justice Qayyum report, spoke about the hurdles he has faced in his attempts to serve the nation and the game of cricket once again, his recollections of playing under Imran Khan and explained how he can use his experience to remedy some of the technical issues with today's Pakistan batsmen.
PakPassion.net : You played many great innings for Pakistan. Which ones are special and memorable to you?
Saleem Malik : Well the ones that stick out for me in One-day cricket are the world-famous and much loved innings in Kolkata when I made 72 from 62 balls against the West Indies in the Nehru Cup final (November, 1989) and we went on to win the match off the second last ball. But the One-day innings that really stands out for me is an innings that I played in the Caribbean against their ferocious pace attack in Trinidad. I scored 85 from only 55 balls and that match was played in 1988 when Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Winston Benjamin and Curtly Ambrose were bowling very quick.
As far as Test cricket is concerned I’m proud to say there were some very special innings. One innings though that really satisfies me was at Headingley in 1987. It wasn’t anywhere near my highest Test score but it was a vital innings of 99 on a very difficult wicket at Leeds. But the pleasing thing was that we went onto win the match by an innings and my score of 99 helped in that victory. My highest Test score of 237 against Australia is also a much-cherished innings. The match was in Rawalpindi in 1994 and we were in trouble when we had to follow on. However we battled hard in the second innings and my innings contributed to us saving the match.
PakPassion.net : Do you think you were treated fairly by Justice Qayyum?
Saleem Malik : Well those people that looked after Justice Qayyum survived and those like me that didn’t offer him anything were targeted. I was coming towards the end of my international career so I was made the scapegoat. They had to find one or two scapegoats and I was conveniently one of them.
PakPassion.net : I interviewed Tauqir Zia a few years ago and he made it clear that some players escaped harsher punishment from Justice Qayyum because the Pakistan team would have struggled to find adequate replacements. How does it make you feel to hear this?
Saleem Malik : Justice should be equal for all. The law, rules and regulations should be the same irrespective of your background or status. My question to those in authority has always been why was I treated differently to others? Why was I punished so harshly? Why was I shown no remorse or given a second chance? I never even wanted to play cricket again, but I was still blacklisted and isolated. I’ve tried so many times to clear the path for myself to work again in cricket, by coaching children but they won’t even let me do that. I wanted to make a cricket academy, they wouldn’t even let me do that.
PakPassion.net : So without cricket what have you been doing, how have you coped?
Saleem Malik : When all my paths were blocked as far as an academy or coaching was concerned, I formed an NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) which was to be for the welfare and help of former cricketers in Pakistan who were struggling financially. This was for cricketers who were struggling to support their family despite having played First-Class cricket and in some cases international cricket. I was putting money from my own pocket and from friends to organise benefit matches for some of these cricketers who needed assistance. These benefit matches were held for two years, but last year after we made all the arrangements and the match was supposed to be televised and was supposed to include some current and veteran players, a block was put on the match and players were told they would be banned if they played and the venue of Gaddafi Stadium Lahore was told not to allow the match to happen. Then I tried to host the charity match at the LCCA ground and wasn’t allowed to do so. These are just some of the stumbling blocks I have had to face. I was trying to help cricketers in dire straits in Pakistan by organising charity matches but I wasn’t even allowed to do that.
PakPassion.net : So what is your current status as far as your life ban is concerned?
Saleem Malik : Well I wrote several letters to the Pakistan Cricket Board and brought up the issue in the media and eventually I was told that I’m now clear both from the Board’s perspective and legally. But the PCB also said to me two years ago that they wrote to the ICC for further clarification but I have not heard any further in that regard. So I wait as I have done for many years and wait for the ICC to clarify matters with PCB before I can move on and earn a living from cricket.
PakPassion.net : How does it make you feel when you see some named in the Justice Qayyum report working as coaches, commentators and in other parts of the media?
Saleem Malik : I’m not angry or bitter. It just hurts. I played so many matches for Pakistan, I took part in so many great wins and even single-handedly won and saved matches for my country so why can’t I be given a second chance as others have been? I love Pakistan, it’s my country I would do anything for my country I just ask for another chance to serve my country. Sadly there are some people who don’t want to see me given another chance and that hurts. It’s almost as if those few people have it in for me and don’t want me to be given another chance. There are many players named in the Qayyum report and elsewhere who have been allowed to work in international cricket but the fact remains after sixteen years of isolation I’ve not been given another opportunity.
PakPassion.net : You played alongside some of the greats of Pakistan cricket like Imran Khan. What are your memories of those great days?
Saleem Malik : Imran Khan was a fantastic role-model. He was senior in age and also the leader of the group. The players respected him and he was the commander-in-chief. Under Imran Khan’s leadership there was discipline and the group of players was very united. What I really enjoyed about playing under Imran Khan was his positive attitude in Test matches. He wanted to win and this was a refreshing change from some captains whose mindset was to not lose and if we won, then that was a bonus. In addition, Imran brought neutral umpires into international cricket and that eradicated the suspicions of some teams who weren’t happy about home umpires. He was a pioneer for Pakistan cricket, a great thinker and someone who played with such a positive attitude and that reflected on his teams. In my mind he was the man who brought the winning mentality into Pakistan cricket. He also brought into the team an attitude that if you lose, you go down fighting. The players who played alongside Imran Khan carried on the philosophies that he implemented.
PakPassion.net : You performed really well at Essex. Why do you think you were such a success in County cricket?
Saleem Malik : I say this with all due respect to County cricketers of that era but the fact is that I had been playing for Pakistan against the best bowlers in the world and some of the all-time greats. Each County had a few good players and some world-class players but not quite in the league of international cricket. Yes conditions at times were tough in England for batting but my game plan was always to see off the best bowlers and target the others. I feel that more Pakistani players especially batsmen need exposure to County cricket, especially the four-day version.
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts on Pakistan’s upcoming batsmen like Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Ahmed Shehzad and others?
Saleem Malik : One of the biggest problems is that we are not allowing our young batsmen to settle into international cricket and establish themselves. At times I feel that the current senior players should be doing more to help the young batsmen rather than protecting their own positions in the team. Imran Khan in his day encouraged young fast bowlers to become great cricketers, he didn’t worry about his own place in the team and that one day the young bowlers may replace him in the team.
PakPassion.net : What’s wrong with the current Pakistan limited-overs teams?
Saleem Malik : I don’t think the selectors are doing a very good job in picking the right players. Also it seems that our limited-overs captains are either too soft in allowing themselves to be overruled or on the other hand selecting players based on favoritism. The solution is simple; Improve selection and ensure players are picked on merit not through friendships with the captain.
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts on the overall standard of batsmen around the world these days?
Saleem Malik : I’m a big fan of Virat Kohli; he’s a great player. He and AB de Villiers are the sort of players who have proved themselves in all conditions and in all formats. One thing that really annoys me though about modern-day cricket is the size of the boundaries. How can an international match be played where the boundary is just over 60 metres. These days edges fly for six, but in our day you didn’t get too many edges flying for six as the boundaries were much bigger. In my day if you edged it, more often than not you were out rather than the ball flying for six. Sometimes I see players doing well in domestic Twenty20 leagues with the ball flying around everywhere, but when they are thrown into international cricket those same players struggle.
PakPassion.net : Do you think Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif can re-launch their playing careers?
Saleem Malik : Islam teaches us that if someone has made a mistake and sinned and been punished, and then asks for forgiveness then we should give that person another chance and forgive them. All three of them have been punished and served their punishment therefore I think they deserve another chance. I think all three can still play for Pakistan and still have a future in international cricket. Mohammad Amir has a lot of cricket ahead of him, he can be world-class again. He has apologised and should be given another opportunity just as Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt should.
PakPassion.net : You asked the PCB for your life ban to be lifted. Can you provide an update on that?
Saleem Malik : The PCB asked me to put my request in writing which I did two years ago. The PCB then announced that I had been cleared by them and also by the courts. However the stumbling block is the ICC who still hasn’t responded to the PCB’s and my request. So I wait and wait for the ICC to reply and for me to move on with my life and rebuild my life.
PakPassion.net : It seems that you still have a lot of passion for Pakistan cricket and are keen to work as a coach. Is that accurate?
Saleem Malik : I want a second chance. I want to serve my country again. I represented my country for hundreds of matches and I urge the authorities to give me another chance. I’ve met the PCB Chairman on several occasions and spoken with PCB officials. My wish is that I am given the chance once again to serve Pakistan cricket and nothing would please me more than to be given approval to coach young cricketers in Pakistan. I see our cricketers making basic errors in international cricket and having some obvious flaws that should have been spotted and ironed-out before they reach international cricket. I’d like to work with young cricketers in Pakistan so that these errors and basic flaws are removed from our cricketers before they play international cricket. You shouldn’t have to learn basic skills in international cricket, they should be taught at junior level. I see our cricketers not running between the wickets properly and having basic flaws. I want to be given the opportunity to share my wealth of cricket experience and to work with young cricketers in Pakistan and I urge the authorities to help me with this request.