Mohammad Hafeez Interview: I can bring balance to the ODI team by Abdul Habib 16th February 2010 This interview was conducted before Hafeez left for the UAE to captain Pakistan A, I'd like to thank Hafeez for his time and for his frank answers! Cricistan.Com: Congratulations on being picked as the Pakistan A captain again. Mohammad Hafeez: Thank you, it's always an honour to represent my country. Cricistan.Com: Your last stint as captain of Pakistan A was during a tour of Australia and your team put up a much better fight than the senior side. What do you remember about that series? Mohammad Hafeez: Touring Australia is always exciting because the Aussies never back down and you have to fight for every inch of ground that you gain, the pitches aren't easy to bat on and the conditions are totally alien to Pakistani cricketers. I loved the challenge especially since we had a very young and inexperienced team and Australia put out a really strong A side with international players like Tait, White, Krejza, Bollinger, etc. But we still competed really well and fought hard in all our games. Cricistan.Com: Your two stand out batsmen on that tour were Umar Akmal and Shehryar Ghani. That tour of Australia A was the one that propelled Umar Akmal to where he is today, tell us more about captaining him. Mohammad Hafeez: Actually when Umar Akmal was selected for the tour of Australia there were a few raised eyebrows because he wasn't rated that highly by anyone, the feeling was that he was a bit of a hit and miss batsman. I was one of his few supporters because I've played cricket with Umar Akmal for a long time now, from the club level upwards we've played a lot of cricket together so I knew what he was good at and how best to utilise his skills. Umar doesn't have a perfect technique but his strength lies in the fact that he's a gutsy batsman with a fighting spirit. As his captain I gave him free reign to play his natural game and assured him that no matter what happened he had my full support, he repaid my faith handsomely and pulled the team out of several difficult positions. Following that tour God has made everything easy for him and he hasn't looked back since then. Cricistan.Com: Ghani isn't in the current A squad, what happened to him? Mohammad Hafeez: Ghani is a good player too but his fate depends on those who have the power in Pakistani cricket. You have to ask them why they selected Ghani, what was the plan behind it? Why give someone a chance if you're not going to persist with them even if they show the ability needed to score against an international class bowling attack? Ghani is a good player, he needs to keep performing and hopefully he'll get another chance. Cricistan.Com: You're right about the inconsistency in selection, there seems to be no method to the madness. Mohammad Hafeez: Well take my example. On that tour of Australia I was the Pakistan A captain but on the tour to Sri Lanka straight after, not only did I lose the captaincy (despite a strong performance from my team) but I was also dropped as a player. What's the plan here? Cricistan.Com: While it's true that under your captaincy the team fought really hard in Australia, perhaps it was your own performance as a player that got you dropped? You should get all the credit as the captain of that team but then shouldn't you also accept the fallout from struggling as a batsman? Mohammad Hafeez: I understand what you're saying and yes I did struggle during the 4 day games but do you know the reason why I struggled? Before the 4 days games I fractured my thumb, I couldn't even grip a ball or a bat. If I was still in Pakistan then I wouldn't have played but on a tour the rules are somewhat different. That Pakistan A team was very inexperienced and I was the only player with regular international experience in the squad. We were up against a very experienced Australian team with several international players so I took the decision that no matter what happened I had to play. Yes, I did struggle in the 4 day games because I was unable to properly grip a bat or a ball but I was recovered by the one day series. During the limited overs games I bowled and fielded well as well as scoring 75 in one of the three games we played. Shouldn't they have looked at the reason behind my performance in the 4 days games and weighed it up against the effect of my captaincy before taking the decision to drop me from the Sri Lanka tour? Cricistan.Com: Well you're not only back playing for Pakistan A but you're also back as the Pakistan A captain. Tell us about the season that led to you winning back your spot. Mohammad Hafeez: During this last season I've scored 1043 runs at an average of 39 and taken 26 wickets at an average of 26, plus I was one of the best fielders too. I strongly believe that if you give the right players a full opportunity to settle into the side then they will come good. Cricistan.Com: I'm actually a fan of yours in the sense that I think with a bit of tweaking you could play a useful role in the team but so far your international performances haven't lived up to the expectations generated by your domestic heroics. Your thoughts? Mohammad Hafeez: If we're talking Test cricket then I'd point to the fact that I've only played 11 Tests so far and I've scored 2 centuries and 3 fifties. My batting average at Test level is as good as the other Pakistani openers who are playing now, the only difference is that they've played around 3 times as many Test matches as me. If I'd had that many opportunities then I'm confident that I would have established myself as one half of the solution to our opening problems. When it comes to Test cricket how can anyone write me off after just 11 tests especially when almost half of those Tests were played against a strong South African team and almost all of those tests took place in South Africa. When assessing someone's performance you have to look at all the variables. Cricistan.Com: That's a fair point about Test cricket, unlike some of our other openers you haven't had the chance to make runs against the weaker international bowling sides like India, Sri Lanka, NZ and England. You've also opened the batting against a strong South African pace attack in their backyard so I guess that does slant your Test figures. But what about your ODI record? Mohammad Hafeez: I admit that I've badly underperformed as a batsman in ODI cricket, I can make no excuses for that. But for the last 2 years Pakistan has been going into limited overs games with only 5 batsmen so that they can play an extra spinner. How many ODI games have we been winning in the last few years? As soon as we lose 3 wickets, we're almost into the tail. Is it any wonder that with this team we struggle to even chase totals around 150 to 200 when we could chase 300 with Inzi's team? If you think back to the last time Pakistan were a strong ODI team it was under the captaincy of Inzy bhai. Inzi played myself, Malik and Afridi in the same team which meant that he had his batting and bowling options covered. If you compare my bowling stats with Saeed Ajmal's bowling stats then there is very little that separates us. We have a similar average, similar economy and a similar strike rate. We both give around 40 to 45 runs for every 10 overs that we bowl. So why not play me and then you also get an opening batsman and a specialist fielder too. By playing me as an opener who bowls 10 overs, you can free up another slot in the playing XI for a specialist batsman. It brings a better balance to the playing XI and it was one of the reasons that Inzamam's ODI team was so much more successful than the ODI teams that came after him. In cricket you need to balance the team properly so why not pick a 3 in 1 player like me. Cricistan.Com: Well you're certainly an economical bowler and one of the best fielders in Pakistan so just based on those two skills there is a case for including you over a specialist spin bowler. Especially as there's nothing to separate your bowling figures. Ok Hafeez bhai thank you for your time and the best of luck against England A. Mohammad Hafeez: Thanks for the good wishes.