Mohammad Hafeez last played a T20I in November 2018. Since then, he has featured in various T20 competitions at home and abroad, and his record in that period has been modest: 509 runs in 26 matches at an average of 21.20 and a strike rate of 107.38; 16 wickets at 33.75, and an economy rate of 7.28. Last week, he was suspended from bowling in all ECB competitions.
Given all this, and the fact that he is 39, Hafeez’s recall to Pakistan’s T20I squad for the upcoming home series against Bangladesh must have raised quite a few eyebrows. ESPNcricinfo understands that there was a “lack of consensus” among the selectors, but they added him and Shoaib Malik to the squad upon the insistence of T20I captain Babar Azam.
“Well, it’s not a surprise to me,” said Hafeez, who is also without a PCB central contract. “I’m excited to be a part of the team again and will try my level best to add value to the team set-up. Obviously there are more youngsters than seniors, so it will be great for us to share our experience with them and let them express themselves in a way that they can perform better, and do well for Pakistan for a longer period of time.”
Hafeez was dropped from the ODI squad after last year’s World Cup, with Pakistan turning to younger players. He retired from Test cricket in December 2018, but has kept himself available in the white-ball formats. He wasn’t invited to the recent fitness scanning of contracted players, but he says he has kept himself fit for international cricket. Head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq defended his selection, arguing that his experience and maturity would add value to the side.
Hafeez wants to play the T20 World Cup later this year in Australia, following which he plans to retire from international cricket. “My personal plan is that I should play for Pakistan on the basis of fitness and performance,” he said. “I want to play World Twenty20 and then I want to make an exit from international cricket – that is my plan, let’s see how it goes.
“I have always played cricket with positive energy, I participate in training sessions with positive energy, there’s no negative thinking in my mind. As a professional, yes, you have to perform.”
Pakistan are ranked No. 1 in the world in T20Is, but are coming off a rough 2019, in which they lost eight out of nine completed T20Is.
Hafeez wasn’t part of the side during that lean spell, and the selectors and team management will hope his experience can help Pakistan get back to winning ways.
Before he was dropped, Hafeez was performing to quite a high standard in T20Is, helping Pakistan win back-to-back series in the UAE, scoring 111 runs at an average of 55.50 and a strike rate of 132.14 against Australia, and 132 runs at 132.00 and 145.05 against New Zealand.
“The important thing is that my stats and career record is in front of everybody,” Hafeez said. “In the last two T20 series, I was the highest scorer, was man of the series against New Zealand, and won a man of the match award too. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I wasn’t selected after that. I have come back with a positive mind and I will try to repay the confidence the selectors have shown in me, and contribute in the team’s success.”
Hafeez’s bowling action has come under scrutiny throughout his career so far. It first got him in trouble all the way back in 2005, and he has been reported, suspended and cleared multiple times since then, going through various tweaks each time to get his action to conform to the 15-degree limit. As things stand following the ECB ban, Pakistan will not have his services as a bowler available to them.
He is set to undergo yet another test at the ICC-accredited lab in the Lahore University of Management Sciences, but the final report may not come out before the series against Bangladesh, which begins on January 24.
“Obviously I will miss bowling,” Hafeez said. “I’m ready to re-test again and I am waiting for it. Hopefully it will be done soon.
“I have played for Pakistan as a batsman for 17 years, bowling was always a plus that has benefited the team. I have always thought of myself as a batsman, I have scored runs as a batsman, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to keep contributing as a batsman for Pakistan.”
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