ABU DHABI: Pakistan batsman Shoaib Malik said his sparkling double hundred against England was inspired by seeing his Indian wife Sania Mirza sweep to a series of tennis titles in 2015.
Malik hit a career-best 245 to cap a remarkable return to Test cricket after five years on the sidelines and four days after Mirza clinched the China Open in Beijing alongside Martina Hingis.
Since returning to the limited overs squad in May, Malik has been averaging 100 in ODIs, rousing performances which earned him a Test recall.
Now he is happily competing for bragging rights with his wife, who this year has collected Grand Slam doubles titles with Hingis at Wimbledon and the US Open.
She has also won tour crowns at Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Beijing.
“A double hundred does not come every day,” Malik said.
“Naturally when Sania wins in tennis, it motivates me a lot and inspires me to do well in cricket.
“It’s healthy that both husband and wife play sports. On my double hundred, she was ecstatic much like the same way I celebrate her wins,” said Malik.
From 5-1 Malik lifted Pakistan to 523-8 in their first innings on Wednesday, adding 168 for the second wicket with Mohammad Hafeez (98) and 248 for the fifth with Asad Shafiq (107).
Malik’s 647-minute vigil ended only after he suffered cramps. He was then on a drip after the match due to dehydration.
“It was really tough but since it was my comeback innings I negotiated everything with a smile,” said Malik.
Malik’s last Test was against England, a few months after his high-profile 2010 marriage to Mirza in the Indian city of Hyderabad Deccan.
But Malik’s career nosedived and he not only lost his place in the Test team but did not get regular chances in limited over matches.
The inspiration came from Mirza who rose to world number one in doubles in April this year, close to the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary.
In May, Malik was included in the one-day side after a gap of two years and he grabbed his chance with both hands, scoring a century against Zimbabwe in Lahore — his first three-figure score for six years.
That prompted Mirza to tweet, “so happy for you .. Belief does wonders.”
In July, Sania and Hingis then won their first Grand Slam title together at Wimbledon.
“I feel so proud of her,” said Malik. “I have uploaded the software on my mobile to keep updated on her matches and she always says that cricket is her favourite sport.”
Malik only returned to the Test side after regular number three Azhar Ali was ruled out of the game in Abu Dhabi with a foot injury.
The 33-year-old went into bat as early as the third over of the match on Tuesday but his resolve, confidence and motivation helped him to play a memorable knock, the third highest by a Pakistan batsman in a Test.
“It was tough,” said Malik.
“The fact that Ali has done so well in the recent past added to the pressure but it was an opportunity for me to show my worth and I am proud that I have scored a double century.
“But cricket is not an individual sport like tennis, so I will only be happy and satisfied if we win this Test match.”