Why is Mohammad Hafeez still on our national team?

Published: August 9, 2016

Thirteen years since making his international debut, Mohammad Hafeez has still failed to justify his position as an opener in the Pakistan cricket team. PHOTO: AFP

Thirteen years into his international debut, Mohammad Hafeez has failed in justifying his position as an opener in the Pakistan cricket team. What’s even more disappointing is that this statement holds true for all three formats.

The sign of an average player is that when playing at home (home for us being UAE), he plays well. But the moment conditions change and pose as a challenge, such as in England, South Africa and West Indies, he fails miserably. No wonder then that Hafeez’s average in away Tests against these mentioned teams is not even 20. Try to recall when he last scored a century playing away from home, against any team other than Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and you’ll understand this reasoning.

Opener Mohammad Hafeez
Photo: AFP

The importance of a good opener cannot be stressed enough. He sees off the new ball, keeps one end stable and lays a solid platform for the middle order to build upon. In any other cricket nation, what Dale Steyn did to Hafeez during Pakistan’s home and away series against South Africa (at one point Steyn literally laughed in Hafeez’s face for repeatedly getting him out in the same fashion) should have been enough to replace Hafeez for good. But not in Pakistan.

Dale Steyn dismissed Mohammad Hafeez early again
Photo: AFP

We, for heaven only knows why, persisted with Hafeez as an opener and the results are enough for everyone to see. Hafeez continues to be in complete oblivion about his off-stump, and thus, keeps getting out playing away from his body when the ball is swinging. Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

In our context, you can decide whether he was right or wrong.

Hafeez’s performances in ODIs and T20s as an opener are similarly dismal, and ever since his bowling ban, his position in the team has become even more questionable.

But playing the devil’s advocate, one could make a few arguments for the selectors for constantly entrusting Hafeez with the task of opening for Pakistan. The first would be that he is a senior player, and as such, he is needed in the team. Secondly, it could be claimed that there are simply no other options available to choose from to fill that crucial opening slot. But the current series in England has shown us that both those justifications are utterly faulty.

England’s Moeen Ali celebrates taking the wicket of Pakistan’s Mohammad Hafeez
Photo: Reuters

Let’s deliberate upon the point about seniority.

Where does it state that being a senior player grants them immunity from being dropped from the team? If players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Ian Bell, and Shane Watson – all with much higher averages than Hafeez – can be dropped for lack of form, what puts Hafeez over and above the proverbial axe?

This directly brings us to the second point about lack of alternate options.

Two words, Sami Aslam. What this 20-year-old kid achieved in his first innings in England, Hafeez couldn’t do in his last six innings: scoring a half-century. And he did it twice. Sami has proved to people like the never-say-retire Shahid Afridi that Pakistan is never short on talent. All that is required is to give merited individuals the chance to prove they belong.

Sami Aslam in action
Photo: Reuters

And if we do indeed face a stiff challenge in finding openers, why not try out a few middle order batsmen as openers? Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed and Azhar Ali can all be asked to open for Pakistan. Why is such out-of-the-box thinking beyond our team management? With Hafeez around, Azhar Ali usually comes to the crease pretty early anyway.

Pakistan`s Younis Khan (R) applauds as Pakistan`s Azhar Ali celebrates
Photo: AFP

To conclude, it is high time that we adopt a selection approach where tried and tested players are not brought back to fail again, and young blood such as Sami Aslam, are inducted in the team.

Usman Ali Virk

Usman Ali Virk

The author hails from Lahore and is a lawyer by profession. He recently graduated with a Masters in Law from the University of California, Berkeley.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    If there was sense or logic, planning or merit in Pakistan’s cricket…….it would not be Pakistan cricket.Recommend

  • Khan Nasir

    Pakistan Test Team should conist of
    1.Shahzad
    2.Sami
    3.Assad
    4.Umar Akmal
    5.Imad Waseem
    6.Fawad
    7.Sarfaraz
    8.Aamir
    9.Suhail
    10.Wahab
    11.Yasir
    12.Raahat
    Recommend

  • Mahmud Majeed

    Timid play can take us nowhere. I can bet ask Wahab or Sohail Khan or even Amir to bat aggressively they will make more runs. Ask Azhar Ali, misbah, Younus Khan or Hafeez to Play cautiously they will make 15 to 30 runs in 100 balls and either will be out lbw or caught behind. So what is the point of this negative over cautious approach and play for a draw or loss . This over cautious approach has cost us several matches in last decade.Recommend

  • rumi52

    I have been wondering about Mohammed Hafeez’s place as an opener in the Pakistani team for years now. Never could understand how a player who usually never scored above 20 was ever in the team. And why should he improve when his place is virtually guaranteed. By the way is it true his father-in-law is a selector or was that another player?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Because he is related to Najam Sethi.Recommend

  • PatrioticSoul

    hi. i think the article is about Hafeez as an opener and not a request to list a proposed team. learn to be objective.Recommend

  • Nadeem Iqbal

    Some sense written here. The U19 team seems to have more talent than the entire test team. Just look at Sami Aslam. They just need a chance. I will say look at Sri Lanka. They learnt, despite being a totally inexperienced team, and beat Australia. Time Pakistan learnt instead of playing as if in the 80s.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    Hafeez was terrible from day 1. until you stop being Punjab Cricket Board and stop looking just beneath your nose- expand vision- if you want find good talent.

    There are plenty of people that can be a good opener…
    But the selectors only look in Punjab, or else call back Hafeez!
    shame on you!Recommend

  • miristan

    He has support of ruling party. This is Pakistani politics. He should be sitting out side watch match from on TV.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Shahzad? Umar Akmal? tobah. kick them out.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    let ppl speak freely mind your own business.Recommend

  • rafay

    was it asim kamal ? he was a great talent ! in pakistan only parchi n money talks. we lost a great talent.Recommend

  • rafay

    keep shehzad and akmal out as well. it will be better for Pakistan cricketRecommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Go Hafeez Go.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    Let me count the names from Punjab, It must be Shahid Afridi, or may be Umar Gul, or Sohail Khan, or Younis Khan, or Junaid Khan, or Yasir Shah, or Sarfraz Ahmed. And the list keeps going on for the players from PunjabRecommend

  • ABKhan

    I have been wondering his position even as a drink bringerRecommend