Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Saleem Malik is born - the first casualty of match-fixing
April 16, 1963 - Saleem Malik compiled 5,768 runs at 43.69 from 103 Tests with 15 hundreds and 7,170 runs from 283 ODIs, with 5 hundreds and 47 fifties, but he will forever be remembered as the first cricketer to be slapped a life ban for match-fixing.
When Salim Malik made his debut in 1982, Pakistan were in dire need for a solid middle-order batsman. Sadiq, Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal had completed their careers, Majid Khan did not have much left to offer and Zaheer Abbas was nearing retirement. The team had unearthed a gem in Javed Miandad, but how many games could he win on his own?
In came the gifted right-hand batsman in Malik, watching whom was seeing poetry in action. In the formative years of his career, his club coach at the Victorious Club in Iqbal Park, Lahore had taught him the gains of playing straight. He adhered to the advice and enthralled the cricketing audience with shots played meticulously in the V.
At the same time, Malik did not shy away from playing square of the wicket, either side of the field. In fact, aided by supple footwork, some of his most nonchalant strokes happed to be those. Malik could also clear the fence with ease. With all the tricks up his sleeve, he was hard to dislodge on his day.
While he had the talent, what he lacked was the temperament. Unlike his peers, Malik never seemed to have the natural hunger to score. Some of this was also due to the fact that he was not rated highly, particularly by his skipper Imran Khan.
Despite a positive body language, a stellar record in the swinging conditions of England and the tendency to up his game on big occasions, Malik never got the appreciation he merited in his earlier days. That was perhaps one of the reasons for his inconsistent performances, though good enough, did not do justice to his potential.But then, who appeared first, the hen or the egg, remains unanswered.
This explains why, more than a decade into his career, when Malik was appointed captain, he struck a purple patch, both as a batsman and as captain. He was one of the few batsmen who managed to get a hold over the wizardry of Shane Warne. Warne dismissed him just once in five Tests, across which Malik averaged 71.
Malik also had the ability to extract the best from his teammates as skipper. Under him, both of Pakistan's pace virtuosos Wasim and Waqar, who hardly saw eye to eye, delivered some of their best performances. Wasim had a better average under no other captain. Waqar Younis averaged better only under Miandad, with a cutoff of two Tests.
Malik's stint as captain lasted a year and five days. It spanned 12 Tests of which 7 ended in victories, and only 3 in losses. It was a brilliant record, needless to say, but it left a lot to be desired due to its short span and being fraught with controversy.
If we consider 10 Tests as cut off, Malik’s win-loss ratio of 2.33 places him at par with Javed Miandad as the second-most successful captain of Pakistan, with Zaheer Abbas leading the way with 3 wins and 1 loss in 14 Tests.
In a riveting Test match that Pakistan hosted, a one-wicket win against Australia raised alarm bells. Ian Healy missed a stumping chance off Shane Warne and the ball went for the winning runs as four byes. Later, Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh alleged that Malik had tried to bribe them into bowling poorly on the final day.
In October 1995, Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim acquitted Malik of all allegations and he was allowed to continue his career. But, a year after wicketkeeper Rashid Latif, accused Malik, and several others big names of fixing matches, Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyam’s enquiry implicated him with match-fixing on multiple counts. Malik was found guilty and was banned from any sort of involvement with Pakistan cricket, which was lifted by a lower court eight years later.
Malik may have been a batsman with extraordinary talent, but he will forever be remembered as the first player to be banned for life for match-fixing.
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