Hafeez laments instability, hopes to leave on a high

Pakistan’s top-order batsman speaks to The Express Tribune in an exclusive session


Emmad Hameed December 03, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI: Pakistan’s home series against England in the UAE brought tremendous success for Mohammad Hafeez as the top-order batsman surged ahead of his teammates and rivals in both the Tests and ODI formats. He collected 380 runs in the longest format — second only to Alastair Cook — and 184 in the one-dayers — the most among both teams.

The deep thinking 35-year old dubbed ‘Professor’ for his keen interest in theorising on various aspects of the game, spent an hour recollecting his highs, lows, the bowling-ban conundrum and his comical running between wickets on the tour in an exclusive session with The Express Tribune on the eve of the Sharjah T20I.

PHOTO: AFP

As luck would have it, Hafeez ran himself out hopelessly for one final time in the third T20I, with newcomer Rafatullah Mohmand and him haring down towards the same end to the utter amusement of millions of viewers around the world.

The running woes are explained later in the piece; the conversation with the seasoned all-rounder — currently serving a bowling ban — began with Hafeez dissecting his golden run with the bat since the New Zealand series in the UAE last year.

In nine of the long format games since the Abu Dhabi Test against the Black Caps, Hafeez has piled on a tally of 1,128 runs, embellished with four centuries and a 75.20 average.

Hafeez — redeeming his Test fortunes

“After I was dropped from Tests in 2013, I was devastated,” he recalled. “I love the longest format and so desired to return to my absolute best. I accepted my failures and started working hard on my technical deficiencies, and since the Australia series [two Tests before the New Zealand tour] I have proven my worth. I have a firm belief that there is no shortcut to success.”

PHOTO: AFP

Hafeez capped off the England Tests with arguably his greatest ever innings, a match and series-winning 151 against what he termed the most extravagant reverse swing of his international career.

“In my 13 years of international cricket, I never played the reverse swing for such sustained periods than I did in that second innings in Sharjah. I rate that as perhaps my [career’s] best ever, especially keeping in mind the state of the game and the series.”

Pakistan have a hectic white-ball format schedule to deal with in the next four months, and by the time May dawns next year, the talk will turn to the tour of the UK and the hopping red ball in the English summer.

Hafeez has one eye on the series that precedes the Tests Down Under at the end of 2016 that can catapult him to the status of a Pakistan Test great.

“I think in England the duke ball with its prouder seam is going to be a real challenge for all of us,” he said. “I have set some goals for the series and I will start working on them as we get nearer to the tour. Next year if I succeed in England, Australia and New Zealand, I will be rated among the Pakistan greats; I will give it my all.”

PHOTO: AFP

Ringmaster of running-between-wickets circus

Hours before the galling misjudgement with Rafatullah, Hafeez spent considerable energy explaining that the run-outs were not always his fault.



Across the three formats against England, Hafeez either fell to erroneous running or left his partners high and dry no less than five times including the Sharjah shamble.

“I have never been a bad runner, but in the last six months or so I’ve been involved in many run-outs which may have been due to the emergence of many new players, so the coordination is lacking,” he stated.

Only the greenshirts can do this twice in one series

“I am not the only one to be blamed. We are getting out inside the circle and it’s a matter of fractions; you can’t be indecisive with the fielding standard at the highest level since you have almost no chance of recovery.”

PHOTO: AFP

‘Misbah failed to achieve much as ODI leader’

Despite topping the ODI run –scorers’ list in the four games against England, Hafeez’s earnest desire of winning games for his team came true for the series opener only.  Pakistan’s woes in the 50 overs format in Hafeez’s opinion are deep rooted and not a result of recent failures.

The Sargodha born wants the ODI group of the last five years, including the most successful Test captain for the country Misbahul Haq, to own up to the malaise.

“The ODI slump didn’t occur overnight, we are all culpable, including coaches, various selection committees, captains like Misbah and all the players involved. If Misbah has done well as Test captain, as an ODI captain he didn’t deliver much, he couldn’t sustain our rankings; all of us together have failed to deliver in the format. All of us including I or my own self are responsible”

1st ODI: Ton-up Hafeez guides Pakistan's victory over England

The Professor feels that the lack of stability and the failure of forming a core of players in ODIs promoted a sense of fear that resonates through the squad, a sharp contrast to the stable Test team.

“We need to sort out selections; the inconsistencies are causing the problems. The Test team is stable and that is why we are succeeding but the ODI squad is not stable. If players are being chopped and changed after a single failure they can’t play fearless cricket. Pick a guy and give him an extended run; the coaching staff too needs to be decisive and clear in their approach.”

‘All international bowlers must undergo bio-mechanical testing’

Merely days after a stunning all-round performance — century and a four-wicket haul in the first ODI against Sri Lanka — Hafeez’s bowling action was declared illegal on July 17 by the ICC for the second time in a six-month span, subsequently a 12-month period ban was handed out.

PHOTO: AFP

Like the more vociferous Saeed Ajmal, Hafeez is irked by the process and feels it is only exposing slower bowlers.

“I hope that I am heard sympathetically; I feel that the bowling action campaign is gravely confusing. Rather than targeting specific bowlers, every bowler bowling in internationals should be tested across the board; whether fast, slow, right-arm, left-arm, like it should be an equivalent of a boarding pass, only ones cleared by bio-mechanists should be allowed to bowl.”

Hafeez made a poignant plea about the legitimacy of his own action. He feels that his arm always flexed at the same level from his early days and he never altered anything.

PCB issues show cause notice to Hafeez over remarks against Amir

“I also feel that I have bowled throughout my career with the same action, so was I always wrong or chucking? I am sure that people are realising that me not bowling in the white-ball format is having a massive effect on our performances.”

‘Captains don’t get requisite support’

PHOTO: AFP

Hafeez who led the Greenshirts in the 2012 and 2014 WorldT20s is solely concentrating on his stint as team’s leading batter. The captaincy crown according to him is a ‘blessing from God’ but comes with its own truckload of problems that are primarily due to lack of support for the man at the helm.

“Our actual problem is the lack of support for a captain. The moment you are awarded the role, people start plotting against you, however, it’s the team, the media and the fans that collectively need to back a captain.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure as Pakistan team’s captain. I have no regrets at all. The players, I feel, give it their best and we won together and lost together too.”

COMMENTS (5)

Effy | 5 years ago | Reply I cant stop laughing, how can a club level player like Hafeez thinks of playing in ENgland Australia and South Africa, Did he forget Steyn ? He embarassed Pakistan cricket the ay he became of bunny of fast bowling. He should retire now. Amir should come back, Enough said
Feedback | 5 years ago | Reply He doesn't want to share the dressing room with Mohammad Aamir, so its best for him to go home now. I think Aamir is far more better replacement as an all rounder than Hafeez. Hafeez won't have to share the dressing room with Aamir either. So its a win win situation for Hafeez, he shouldn't lose this golden opportunity of retiring.
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