Mohammad Hafeez is a Pakistani cricketer who plays for the Pakistan National Cricket team in ODIs and T20Is as a batting all-rounder. He is usually known for opening the batting and forms a part of the bowling attack. His intelligent batting according to the situation helped him achieve the top all-rounder ranking in 2012-2013. His sound cricketing sense has also helped him captain the team at various timelines. His main strength is technical batting but can also play aggressive shots if the situation demands it. As an all-rounder, he provides the team with flexible bowling options as well. As an off-spin bowler, he bowls fast and flat and is considered a nightmare for left-handed batsmen. He is introduced in the middle overs as an economical bowler to restrict run rates. After his retirement from Test cricket, he is focused on limited overs cricket and is currently ranked 4th in the ODI all-rounders rankings and 10th in the T20 all-rounders rankings.
Hafeez was born on 17th October 1980 in Sargodha, Punjab. He started his domestic career playing in Bhera. Strong domestic performances earned him a chance to play for the Pakistan “A” team. Pakistan was struggling in terms of batting since the 2003 World Cup so they turned to Hafeez to provide them with a steady opening pair. Despite being in the international circuit for a while, Hafeez continued playing domestic cricket representing teams Faisalabad Wolves and Lahore Lions.
International Career (Early Career, Champions Trophy and onwards):
On the basis of his domestic performances, Hafeez was selected for the Pakistani Test and ODI squad in 2003 but he was inconsistent with both the bat and ball. He was dropped and was not selected for any tour in 2004. He returned to the ODI side in 2005 with impressive bowling performance but his batting was still rusty. Despite some good innings in series against Australia and England, he remained largely inconsistent during the next five years.
Selected for the ICC World T20 2010 squad, Hafeez performed poorly in the tournament. However, his performance improved in the coming months. Pakistan toured England in 2010 and Hafeez batted beautifully becoming the 2nd highest run scorer for Pakistan in the series. He made some solid opening partnerships with Kamran Akmal. He replaced Salman Butt as the opening batsman in series against South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies.
2011 was the turning point of Hafeez’s career as he won 10 Man of the Match awards. His performance during the Asia Cup 2012 was outstanding and helped him rise through the ranks of Pakistani team as a go-to option for bat and bowl. He scored several centuries in the tournament. In 2012-2013 series against India, Hafeez came across as an aggressive batsman and scored briskly to ensure that Pakistan won the ODI series and levelled the T20I series. He scored three centuries against Sri Lanka in a single series. This made him the main all-rounder of the team. He was consequently selected for the 2015 ICC World Cup but was ruled out of the tournament due to calf injury.
Hafeez was made captain of the T20 team and vice-captain of ODI and Test teams. After a bad run in the 2016 T20 World Cup, Hafeez stepped down as captain. He continued improving his batting and also worked on improving his bowling action which was banned by ICC on several occasions. He was selected for the tour of Australia in 2017. After Azhar Ali was injured, Hafeez led the team for the remainder of the series.
His good form earned him a chance to play at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. He performed decent in the tournament and scored beautifully in the final against India which helped the team seal off the win. Since then, Hafeez has been performing consistently in every series. In 2018, during New Zealand’s tour of UAE, Hafeez announced that he would be retiring from Test cricket in order to focus on limited overs cricket. He explained that he wanted to be in the best shape for WC 2019 which might very well be his last international tournament.
In his career yet, Hafeez has scored 3652 runs in 55 Tests with 10 centuries, 6302 runs in 2018 ODIs with 11 centuries and 1908 runs in 89 T20Is with 10 fifties. Apart from his batting, his impressive bowling stats contain 53 wickets in Tests, 137 wickets in ODIs and 54 wickets in T20Is.
Role in Pakistan Cricket Team:
Hafeez’s role in the team is two-fold. He is the main all-rounder for the team so he has double responsibility. He usually comes at No.3 or 4 spot because now Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq open for the team. At this point, the opening partnership is broken and team expects someone to do some damage control. His job is to prevent the fall of wickets and bat deeper into the innings. If the opening stand has not performed well and doesn’t manage to get a good score, he is expected to build up a partnership and keep the scoreboard ticking. Similarly, he is expected to bowl well in death overs and restrict run rates. He needs to be sharp in all areas of the game if Pakistan stand a chance to win.
Mohammad Hafeez leading to WC and performance review since Champions Trophy:
Hafeez has been in form since the Champions Trophy. He scored 57 off 37 balls in the CT final and since then has been a part of the squad in all series. The tri-series against Zimbabwe and Australia, Pakistan’s tour of Zimbabwe and New Zealand series were success for him. Recently there was a dip in his form during the South Africa series. He was unable to post any big score and didn’t bowl much. Even the overs he bowled were mediocre. Hafeez was picked up by Lahore Qalandars for the 4th edition of PSL. During the tournament Hafeez suffered thumb fracture during a match against Karachi Kings and has been out of action ever since. In his place, AB de Villiers was selected as the stand-in captain. This incident has led to an uncertainty about Hafeez’s availability for the World Cup squad. His selection is dependent on clearance of fitness test.
Responsibility in WC:
Hafeez’s involvement in WC is now uncertain. If he is selected for the Pakistani squad, he would have tremendous responsibility on his shoulders. He, along with Shoaib Malik, is the most senior player in the roster. This means he’ll have to lead by example. His major role as a batting all-rounder would be to provide stability to the batting line-up. His bowling at this point is a secondary priority as Pakistan is already packing a strong bowling line-up. If he can score decent runs in all innings, then that would certainly help Pakistan’s cause. If a situation arises such that Hafeez has to bowl then he’ll have to bowl economically and not give away too many runs. Due to injury, he is unavailable for Australia series and potentially the series against England before WC as well. If he is selected for the WC cup squad, then he’ll have to adapt to the pitches in England otherwise his presence in the team would do more harm than good. All eyes are on him as he’s the main all-rounder of the team and fans are excited to see his performance in his potentially last international tournament.