Mohammad Hafeez: The sweetly timed turnaround

Published: December 2, 2011

Hafeez’s inclusion last summer left a lot of followers shocked, as seen in the reactions above. DESIGN: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

About 18 months ago, Mohammad Hafeez was wondering where he had gone wrong — he probably hadn’t seen himself play cricket.

His comeback series after almost three years in the wilderness – the 2010 World Twenty20 – lasted six matches, 39 runs and two wickets. So when he was selected for the limited-overs squad to take on England that summer, shock prevailed.

He hadn’t scored a half-century since December 2006 and despite an all-rounder’s tag, failed to get more than three wickets since October 2003.

He averaged 18.6 with the bat after 48 ODIs. There was a huge uproar following his selection and the followers eyed the selectors’ blood.

Fourteen months on, Hafeez has become the first One-Day International cricketer to take 25 wickets and score 1,000 runs in a calendar year, leaving the same individuals bewildered at the turnaround.

Since last summer, he’s scored four centuries, 13 half-centuries and has 62 wickets to go with the catches, diving stops and on-field advice.

Part of the success – and a ‘one of the best all-rounders’ tag from his captain – could be his affinity with his teammates, having played with many in various domestic and age-levels.

But the majority stems from the struggle within, to overcome the condemnation, the public wrath, admission of his shortcomings and age.

Hafeez often captained his domestic side SNGPL en route its Quaid Trophy triumph in the team’s maiden season, at times when Misbahul Haq was away on national duty. Then, despite the absence of his first-choice players, he planned big, all the while parting advice, particularly to Umar Akmal who was in his debut first-class season.

Recently, he admitted it had taken a lot of ‘hard work’ in order to improve his skills and performance, especially with the bat where he was found lacking more.

Bowling, he admitted, came naturally to him but the trust of the captains – Misbah and Shahid Afridi, especially in the World Cup – where he was persisted with and even allowed to open the bowling, had to be won off the meat of the bat.

“I worked very hard on my technique, which has paid off and really given me a lot of confidence,” said Hafeez after one of his all-round shows in Dubai.

Confidence has also made its way across to the followers given the lost cause that is finding successors to Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail.

He seems an average cricketer, there is no class oozing out of his shots and his top-spinners are usually non-turners.

His batting devoid of massive sixes, the bowling seemingly innocuous. There is no gold shop round his neck and the hair colour mostly remains natural.

But he’s grown up from his scrambling days – although random wafts are still witnessed – and employs his brain to the task.

“It’s really a blessing to have a person like him in the team,” said Misbah.

Two years ago, Hafeez and Misbah were nowhere to be seen.

Now, one leads and the other seems destined to.

Faras Ghani

Faras Ghani

Sports editor of The Express Tribune who is also the author of the book "Champions, again"

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

  • Ahmad

    He seems an average cricketer, there is no class oozing out of his shots and his top-spinners are usually non-turners.

    Very few people would agree with the first part of this statement. He has always been known for making classy 30’s and not carrying on. His shots have always had an elegance about them.Recommend

  • ashok sai

    I second the author, I always believed he has matured as world class cricketer, its actually more than a blessing for a team to having him on the squad. Recommend

  • Saba

    I always thought he was the unlucky guy. His batting style had elegance and he seemed hard working, but lacked consistence.But as they say perseverance is the key to success, his persistence paid off in the end! Recommend

  • Mazher Arshad

    Mohammad Hafeez is not the first Cricketer to score 1000+ runs and take 25+ Wickets. Sanath Jaysuria and Jacques Kallis (twice) have also achieved this feat, Kallis even took 40+ Wickets. However, Hafeez is the only player to achieve this feat in this calendar year 2011. Recommend

  • rizvi

    Hafeez the professor should be captain after Misbah retires.Recommend

  • Fahad Tanwiri

    Hafeez is indeed the most sweetly timed turnaround after Shahid Afridi.

    The other day while discussing the prospect of our National Cricket Team with my father I wandered into a familiar argument on WHO will take the reigns after Misbah. This was probably the only time when I agreed with him that there is no one better than Hafeez to lead the team at this point in time with Umar Akmal as the Vice captain (unless he suffers from the AKMAL syndrome). There is nothing captain-like visible from Hafeez’s attitude, yet he is the most deserving candidate! MH has qualities that are beyond that of a captain of any cricket team, maybe Ponting came close to being a thinker and a finisher but not a brainiac!

    Well written FG:)Recommend

  • Hamza AK

    No class oozing from his shots?
    I have NEVER seen a Pakistani player who plays the pull shot better than the Professor. I always believed in him, because if there’s one thing you can never learn with time, it’s CLASS. And he always had that in abundance, so I always believed in him. He was probably the hardest working player in the National Academy during his hiatus so it’s good to see that the hard work is paying off. Long live the Professor. Recommend

  • JaySabir

    Afridi and Hafeez are two extraordinary utility players in Pak team. Recommend