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Mohammad Hafeez is retired from international cricket, and given how Pakistani cricketers do it, this was probably his best time to do this. We will see Professor featuring in the T20I leagues around the globe but won’t see him in the green shirt again.
How it Started
His journey started 19 years ago in Karachi on 20th August 2003 in a home series against Bangladesh. Management replaced Saleem Elahi with a young allrounder of Sargodha who could switch to any mode at the top order as well as provided some decent off-spin too.
Hafeez’s technique suited test cricket. He was aggressive, but his organized technique meant he could switch to the defensive mode as well if the situation demanded. As an off-spinner, he did not flight the ball much, but his control over line and length made him a good option to be utilized at any stage.
One good delivery of Mashrafe Mortaza sent him back towards the pavilion in the first inning of the Karachi test but came back with a fine half-century in the second inning and bowled Hannan Sarkar leg before, claiming his first international scalp. In the second game, he scored his maiden century and ended the series as the third-highest run-getter.
Why was he dropped?
Mohammad Hafeez always looked good in his early days, was good in the field as well but he was scoring 30s or 40s consistently without converting them into better scores. The time we are talking about was the prime time of Shahid Afridi as an opener in the white ball games while there were players like Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal who were making their marks in the red ball.
Moreover, his fans may criticise the management of the time for being unjust as he was not given another test after his first series before 2006, three years later. But in the limited-overs format, he was always around despite his low averages. From 2003-10, he represented Pakistan in many important events including the first T20 World Cup 2007.
The Emergence of Professor
When Salman Butt was banned from playing international cricket in 2010, Pakistan needed a captain as well as a good opener to fill the vacuum. Misbah Ul Haq was given the captaincy while Mohammad Hafeez was selected in his team as an opener. In the white-ball cricket, Professor was already there but a few good appearances against South Africa and then a fantastic New Zealand trip cemented his spot in the side.
In the World Cup 2011, he proved a decent hard hitter against both pace and spin. With the ball, especially against spinners, he was more than a nightmare. Whenever there were left-handers around, it didn’t matter if it was 1st or the 45th over, Hafeez was always trusted. With the bat, he started to impress everywhere around the globe in all three formats.
2011 was his peak time when the international community started to recognize him as the Professor. He was hitting the rankings, to win the man of the match award game after the game became a habit. In Pakistan, only Shahid Afridi and Inzamam Ul Haq have won more player of the match awards than him, but both have played too many matches as well.
Once Upon a Time: He was a Captain
In 2012, Misbah had whitewashed England in the UAE tests but once the format changed, his own, as well as the team’s performance, declined. He lost the last two easy T20Is after winning the first one and then the reason behind was his habit to wait and see. Pakistan lost in death overs and management decided to address the problem immediately by appointing Mohammad Hafeez the new T20I captain of Pakistan.
His first outing against Sri Lanka did not go well but once he started to lead from the front as a brave captain, the team found the right balance. There used to be a script, Hafeez started the inning with pacers and suddenly when players decided to accelerate, Ajmal and Afridi were introduced. In batting, Team had its skipper as well as players like Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi at the peak of their T20I careers.
As captain, his average is slightly better but his strike rate is comparatively lower. The reason can be a lot of cricket in the UAE as well as his role to anchor the innings. As a captain, he got 20 wickets as a captain, which is almost 33% of his career. He utilized himself better than most of the other captains did. After Pakistan could not perform well in the 2014 T20 World Cup, he retired from the T20I captaincy. As the team had not found any youngster ready to captain Pakistan, Afridi replaced him as captain.
Banned from Bowling and missed World Cups
In November 2014, in a test series against New Zealand in the UAE, Mohammad Hafeez’s action was reported to exceed the 15° limit and he was banned from bowling in cricket. Saeed Ajmal was already banned by the ICC and suddenly Pakistan had nobody to assist Shahid Afridi in the white-ball format. Management had to work on Haris Sohail to get a 5th bowling option. Pakistan wanted to bat deep as batting was also disturbed after the allrounder was not available. He got injured before the World Cup 2015 started and there was a vacuum of an off-spinner and top-order batter automatically.
By April 2015, he remodelled his action and passed the test but a few months later, in a Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, he was again banned and this time automatically suspended for 12 months. Pakistan was automatically going to miss his off-spin but an injury meant the team had a vacuum at no.3 once again in another World Cup.
In the first season of the PSL, he could not bowl due to the same reason. He passed a test again in 2016 but was banned for once more in 2017. His bowling option had helped Pakistan in Winning the Champions Trophy as the team played wicket-taking options with Hafeez and Malik also bowling. Against India in the final of CT 2017, he scored a quick half-century to help his side score big in an important game.
Professor was available to bowl again in 2018 but was reported again in 2019 in English Vitality Blast Games. This time, he passed the test in a few months and was available as a bowler until his retirement. His availability as an allrounder in World Cup 2019 meant Pakistan could play the CT 2017 combination this time around as well.
Mohammad Hafeez: The Power Hitter
Professor has evolved as a cricketer over the years, that’s probably what kept him in the circuit for so many years despite being banned as a bowler. During the captaincy tenure of Sarfraz, allrounder used to play but his place was not permanent. The big reason behind this was the emergence of Babar Azam at the top order. The young star’s performance meant Pakistan could not afford another player of similar style and strike rate at the top order.
At no.4, there was Shoaib Malik while Hafeez was a misfit at no.5. Still, team management played both of them at no.4 and 5 in the T20Is against England. Then in 2020, the world saw another version of the Professor: the power hitter Mohammad Hafeez.
In the same year, He scored the most number of runs in the T20Is with a strike rate of 152 and averaged 83. At 40, this was more than extraordinary. Pakistan started to win games as a result and the new captain in Babar must have felt quite privileged to have someone like him on his side. Recently during the T20I World Cup as well in the tour of England, allrounder provided both a hard hitter and off-spinner option. Even at 41, he was taking wickets of players like Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan for fun.
Why will he be remembered?
Mohammad Hafeez was known for his knowledge of the game as well as its brilliant execution. As an individual, he was a man of his word who represented Pakistan with great honour and dignity. His stance regarding the spot-fixers is very rude as in his view, such players should not be allowed to represent the country again. Our topic of discussion today is the Professor, not his stance.
As a player, he has served Pakistan for 18 years with all of his skills and potential. There are not a lot of runs, wickets or averages to compare him with the giants of the game, but the third most man of the match awards for Pakistan show his worth and ability to win games individually. He has the record of playing the most number of games for his country consistently and leaves behind Kamran Akmal in the category. In Pakistan, only Boom Boom Afridi has hit more sixes in international cricket than Professor.
Only very few would have served the country so loyally the way he did. All players went to play IPL when PCB had prohibited it but only Hafeez stayed although he wasn’t in the circuit as well. When the team needed him badly in 2010, he filled the gap wonderfully to strengthen his team.
Stepped down from captaincy gracefully but never gave up on his bowling despite plenty of bans in the last 7’8 years. His evolution as a player earned him a place in the team in every era and he must be remembered as a player who knew how to evolve as an individual instead of blaming others for his failures.
Also Read: Team of T20 World cup 2021 by Green Team