Something’s off: Off-spinner Hafeez joins the banned wagon

34-year-old suspended for 12 months due to an illegal bowling action

Our Correspondent July 17, 2015
Hafeez was found to exceed the allowed 15-degree elbow flexion limit and cannot bowl or have a reassessment for 12 months. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan have received a bowling body blow with all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez being given a 12-month bowling ban in international cricket following an independent assessment of his action, which took place at the Sri Ramachandra University on July 6 in Chennai. The 34-year-old was assessed after the legality of his bowling action came under question by the match officials during Pakistan’s first Test victory over Sri Lanka in Galle (June 17-21). 

Following the match, Hafeez was reported by the match officials pursuant to the International Cricket Council (ICC) Regulations for the Review of Bowlers Reported with Suspected Illegal Bowling Actions, and subsequently underwent an independent assessment in Chennai in accordance with the regulations.

The assessment revealed that Hafeez’s elbow extension exceeded the allowed 15-degree limit while bowling and was therefore deemed to have an illegal bowling action.

No stranger to being called up

Hafeez was originally suspended from bowling in November, 2014. Following remedial work on his bowling action, he was reassessed and permitted to resume bowling in April.

“As this report has constituted the player’s second report within a two-year period, the first of which led to a suspension, he is now automatically suspended from bowling in international cricket for a 12-month period,” read an ICC press release regarding the all-rounder’s suspension. “Hafeez is entitled to appeal any procedural aspect of an independent assessment that has led to this automatic suspension. However, only after the expiry of this one-year period will he be entitled to approach the ICC for a reassessment of his bowling action.”

Pakistan have already lost the services of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal after he returned as a shadow of his former self with a remodelled action, and now Hafeez’s suspension makes their spin department even weaker.

While several young spinners have been impressing in the domestic circuit, none can be earmarked as a direct replacement for Hafeez as they are either left-arm spinners — Zafar Gohar and Muhammad Nawaz — or leg-spinners — Usama Mir and Shahzaib Ahmed Khan — rather than off-spinners of Hafeez’s ilk.

All-rounder Bilal Asif is part of the squad and will be hoping to replace Hafeez in the short term. However, Asif too has a suspect action and may find himself called up as well if officials feel he also exceeds the allowed flexion limit.

The likes of Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam may also be asked by skipper Azhar Ali and coach Waqar Younis to bowl out 10 overs of off-spin between themselves.

Pakistan will struggle without Hafeez: Tauseef

Former cricketer and off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed said that Hafeez’s ban has certainly left Pakistan short of penetration in the bowling department, with Wahab Riaz and Ajmal already missing from the ranks.

“Hafeez will be a big miss for Pakistan because he has been doing really well as a bowler in ODIs and T20Is,” said Tauseef. “This has now put pressure on both Hafeez and Pakistan because both have to deal with uncertainty. For the time being, his place is secure in the side as he has scored runs recently but I doubt he would be able to justify his place in the side as a batsman alone for long. Pakistan, on the other hand, have been deprived of a good all-round option.”

Tauseef added that the team management must try Bilal Asif in the ongoing series so that his potential can be judged.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2015.

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