Saleem Malik’s caustic carnage at Calcutta (now Kolkata)
18th February, 1987 , Eden Gardens, Kolkata
“Malik seemed in complete control of the situation. And he did it single-handed” – Ramiz Raja
Saleem Malik would be remembered as the talented, wristy right-handed batsman, who during his playing career formed the bed rock of a formidable Pakistani middle order responsible for plundering runs galore. A graceful timer of the ball, he could also be relied upon to trundle up to the wicket and unshackle a well-set partnership. For a country, historically known for consistently shoddy performances on the field, Saleem Malik was an exception as he could be an electrifying bundle of energy on the field. This talented cricketer, unfortunately would also be remembered as the first ever to be banned from all forms of the game for match fixing – a damning verdict coming on the back of the findings unearthed by the Justice Qayyum inquiry. However after a protracted legal tussle interminably lasting for 7 long years, the Supreme Court of Pakistan finally lifted his ban in the year 2008. Saleem Malik has had a few memorable encounters against India, and like most of his fellow countrymen, he seemed to reserve the best for (or rather against) his arch-rivals.
Saleem Malik chose to essay one of his finest knocks at the magnificent and imposing setting of the Eden Gardens scripting in the process a fairly tale the likes of which are infrequent, improbable and inspiring. A capacity crowd numbering over 80,000 was treated to a stunning and cavalier exhibition of batting that not only shattered the hopes of the home team, but also rendered them numb with shock. In the second ODI of Pakistan’s tour to India in 1987, India batted first in a game reduced to 40 overs, and notched up a score of 238 for 6, courtesy a brilliant 123 by the irascible Kris Srikkanth – an innings studded with 14 boundaries and a lone six. Pakistan began their run chase in an honest fashion with a 106 run opening stand between Rameez Raja and Younis Ahmed. However a flurry of wickets that resulted in the departure of both the openers, Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir and Manzoor Elahi resulted in the wheels almost coming off the Pakistani batting. Only 55 runs were added in this melee.
With Pakistan perilously placed at 161/5, Saleem Malik strode to the crease. Although the fat lady had not yet commenced her song, she was undoubtedly at the fag end of her preparation. The required run-rate was just over 8 runs per over. The Indians and their zealous supporters were just waiting for the conclusion of the last rites. But Saleem Malik certainly had other ideas. Starting off by sweeping Maninder Singh ferociously to the deep-square boundary, he soon got into a murderous rythm by hoicking the spinner over cow-corner for a huge six. When Imran Khan was bowled by Kapil Dev after scoring a meagre couple, the score stood at 174-6. Saleem Malik was now literally bereft of all batting partners and if Pakistan needed a miracle, he was to be the sole provider. Throwing caution to the winds, he now proceeded to run rampant. One Kapil Dev over yielded 4 spectacular boundaries – shots which included a fierce pull through mid-wicket and a flawless flick. Malik was given a fortunate and what would turn out to be a telling reprieve when Chandrakanth Pandit fumbled a stumping as the batsman tried to ungainly use his feet by jumping out of his crease. Making full use of the magnanimity and generosity of his opponents, Malik proceeded to ruin the bowling figures of the talented Maninder Singh. Giving himself room and exposing his stumps he proceeded to cut the ball with precision and placement and drove elegantly through covers with utter disdain.
Overs 35 to 37 bowled by Maninder Singh, Kapil Dev and Madan Lal had the following ridiculous and maudlin run-making sequence:
- Over No.35: 6 4 0 4 4 1
- Over No.36: 0 4 4 4 4 0
- Over No.37: 1 2 4 4 2 0
As a stunned and shocked crowd looked on unbelievingly with hands on their hips and heads in their hands, Saleem Malik was just tearing a befuddled Indian attack apart with a magic wand. When Wasim Akram departed at the score on 224, it was the end of a partnership that had put on 50 runs, the dismissed batsman’s contribution being a measly 3! Even though Saleem Yousuf was run out 8 runs later, the outcome of the game was sealed when a rasping cover drive hit the fence like the proverbial bullet (or rather Ravi Shastri’s tracer bullet). Pakistan had prevailed in one of the most entertaining and exotic run-chases privy to a one day international.
When Saleem Malik came to the crease, Pakistan required 77 runs for a win. Facing just 36 deliveries, he proceeded to rack up 72 of those runs in a spell binding display of batting. When he was finally finished, Malik had blasted 11 brilliant boundaries and a towering six! Mauling Maninder Singh, carting Kapil Dev and massacaring Madan Lal, a marauding Malik brooked no opposition. Well pitched up deliveries were driven with fierce intent and short ones pulled with fanatical determination. Saleem Malik also won the Man-of-the-Match award (and fittingly so) as his vitriolic cameo overshadowed the blistering century scored by Kris Srikkanth.
Played during the days, when IPL unfortunately was not even prescience, this marvellous and menacing performance would have had many a franchise of the IPL scrambling over one another to sign up Saleem Malik! As Pakistan finished the game with 3 deliveries to spare, all that their stunned opponents could do was to go up to the star of the day and offer him handshakes of appreciation. On the 18th of February 1987, Saleem proved that on his day, he could be the ‘Malik’ of them all!
Result: Pakistan won by 2 wickets
(Next: Saeed Anwar’s sublime savagery at Chennai)