Panoramic island-hopping, drum-beating merriment and fun-loving cricket festivities – there are now several reputable T20 cricket leagues around the world, but the Caribbean Premier League is the one associated with passion and regalement.
Against this enchanting back-drop, former (and perhaps future) Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik will once again be plying his T20 wares, this time for Barbados Tridents. Owned by beleaguered Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, were Pakistani players permitted to play in the Indian Premier League, this standing would give all-rounder Malik a beam up into the Royal Challengers Bangalore team. After RCB’s largely winning ways in the last Indian Premier League, Malik was asked if he’s expecting the successful RCB ethos to trickle down onto this team. “Change is good and having someone of Mr Mallya’s profile as owner is very positive, thus I’m looking forward to this season.”
Having won the 2014 CPL and qualified for the Champions League, the Tridents will be hoping the likes of captain Kieron Pollard, South Africa’s AB De Villiers and Malik will propel them towards the final.
Enigmatic, restrained and not one to express his emotions, perhaps it is this very composure that led to Shoaib Malik persisting with international T20 leagues before being recalled to the Pakistani team. He was a permanent fixture in CPL long before it became fashionable to watch the tournament. In fact, local Caribbean paper The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian says “The Tridents batting order will be centred around batting specialist Shoaib Malik, who is the highest run-getter in CPL history.”
When asked what it does for his game to be playing alongside greats such as AB De Villiers at iconic grounds like the Kensington Oval, he replies “I have always believed that to be the best, you have to be with the best – and that’s exactly what an international cricket league does to you. Sharing the dressing room and the field, one learns new ways of doing the same thing, alternatively one is exposed to a differing approach. This has been great for me and AB of course, is a legend.”
With the tournament scheduled to start on the 29th of July right through to the 7th of August, out of a total of 34 matches – excluding the play-offs and final – Malik will take part in 10 matches.
Given that Barbados is celebrating its 50th year of independence, should fans expect to see Caribbean- like displays of self-indulgence and revelry? Notwithstanding Barbados Trident’s first game against the Dwayne Bravo-captained Trinbago Knight Riders on the 1st of July, fans can rest assured, the rational Shoaib Malik has no plans to dance to the latter’s ‘Champion’ song as of now.
Against this setting, one has to refer to his infamous on-field bust-up with bowler Tino Best in a 2014 Barbados Tridents v St Lucia Zouks match. In answer to a query on whether a spicy, repeat performance should be expected, the old Malik would have defended himself. The newly refined Malik responds with care. “I hope not. As cricketers we have responsibilities with regards to how we act, especially when millions are watching. Sometimes on the spur of the moment, one’s passion to win does bring out a different attitude but don’t get me wrong. I am all for passion and high spirit, but with responsibility.”
The CPL’s and Barbados Tridents’ first match on American soil will be at the Central Broward stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the 28th of July against Guyana Amazon Warriors. Malik sees this as a relevant move for North American fans in particular. “It’s about time the International Cricket Council takes serious interest in the region, as millions of cricket lovers live in the USA and would love to watch their favourite players and teams in action. Most of the cricket series and leagues around the world tend to be at odd hours of the day for fans living there and this makes it difficult for them to follow live matches. This is an excellent decision between the ICC and CPL, kudos to them.”
In contemplation of the upcoming England-Pakistan series and swathed in a royal blue team shirt once again, he finishes off the interview in style with just a hint of Karachi Kings in his reply. “I have 100% faith in the boys and am looking forward to some competitive cricket beginning on the 14th of July. Pakistan jeetay ga!”
Indeed, with his expansive CPL T20 experience, it is hoped a resumption of winning ways will stand him in good stead for the series to come. For now, though, Shoaib Malik is all charged up about the biggest party in sport.