Sharjah: Nearing 40 but still an integral part of Pakistan's cricket team, veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik says his obsessive pursuit of a fit body helps him stay afloat as an international player, not to mention the unbridled joy he gets out of being on the field.
Malik, who would turn 40 in another three months, has been playing international cricket since the last century when some of his current teammates like star pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi were not even born.
On Sunday, he showed his class once again with an astonishing 18-ball 54 to set up Pakistan's 72-run mauling of Scotland, their fifth consecutive win in the ongoing T20 World Cup.
"...Well, to be honest, I would say I have self-obsession of seeing myself fit when I look at in the mirror, and most importantly I'm still enjoying playing cricket, and it's helping, as well, end of the day towards the team," said Malik in a press conference after Pakistan outplayed Scotland by 72 runs on Sunday night.
Malik's knock on Sunday was the tournament's joint fastest half-century alongside India opener K L Rahul's 18-ball effort, which also came against Scotland.
"I guess if you want to stay fit, then you've got to train every day, and that's what I have been doing," he said.
"I'm not sure about playing a year more or two more years. Right now I'm in middle of a very important thing and not thinking about all that."
Pakistan topped Group 2 in the Super 12 stage and will take on Australia in the semifinals in Dubai on Thursday. Asked if his unbeaten team is wary of the Aussies, Malik acknowledged it wouldn't an easy match.
"Of course we have seen Australia, the way they have been playing. They have been playing really good cricket. So are we. But of course it's going to be a tough challenge for both the teams," said Malik after scoring his first half-century in an ICC event since the 2009 Champions Trophy.
"It's another game, then I guess the other batters have made plans, execute and just take it as another game.
"...we have a few days in between before the semis, so I'm sure management will sit, our team is going to sit and they'll definitely talk about and they'll make plans, as well, for the semis," he added.
Malik was not a part of the initial 15-member Pakistan squad for the T20 World Cup but came in as a replacement for Sohaib Maqsood, who was ruled out due to a back problem.
The seasoned player said he is used to the disappointment of not being in Pakistan teams of the past and has learnt to bide his time.
"I was playing on the Caribbean Premier League when they announced the first team, and my name was not there. Of course I felt bad. I was very disappointed.
"But I've seen a lot of the teams where my name was not there, so of course when you're not part of World Cup team, then it hurts," he said.
Malik had averaged 7.44 in 10 innings for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League to initially miss out on Pakistan selection.
"But as a professional cricketer or as a professional athlete your goal is to talk to yourself and somehow come out from that frustration.
"I had the opportunity because I was playing in the Caribbean Premier League, and then I've come back, I played a domestic tournament because I still enjoy going to the ground, and that's what keeps me going," Malik added....