Now 31, Mohammed Hafeez in all likelihood, will go down in the books of many as the professor who failed to instruct several lessons. Life in cricket has not been easy for the man from Sargodha as he has often found himself on the fringes of national selection for most of his career. Not the most imposing of characters, Hafeez was one of the several young all-rounders the Pakistani cricket team turned to after their poor Cricket World Cup display in 2003, in which they were eliminated in the first round.
Starting with his early one day international record, a format in which he has played most of his cricket, Hafeez started the proceedings on the brighter side of things when notching up a couple of fifties against Sri Lanka in his first five matches. The state of things continued to progress at a steady rate until the series against South Africa at home where the eventual downfall started to begin abruptly as it was the start of a firm run into poor form. Notching up scores of 5, 7, 20, 1 and 0 in the five games respectively, Hafeez followed up with scores of 0 and 2 in his next two innings against Australia and West Indies and never managed to recover whatever form he possessed again. The lean patch with the bat saw him axed from the national side in mid 2007 and it was only until late 2010 that it all started to come right, at-least in the sarcastic sense.
It took until the May of 2010, when Hafeez ultimately gained a recall from national selectors for the third ICC World Twenty20. Despite the poor for, he showed glimpses of classy stroke-play which lured the selectors to subsequently recall him on the tour of England later that year where he formed a solid opening pair alongside Kamran Akmal. The good form in coloured clothing, sometimes called as the purple patch continued as Hafeez once again saw his way through into the test team against South Africa in the United Arab Emirates with surprisingly little questions. Hafeez ended the year 2010 with a modest batting average of 28 and a bowling average of 51. The selectors however decided to stick with the professor and the year 2011 saw instant results.
What followed was undeniably the start of an inspiring and rejuvenated Mohammed Hafeez as he went on to record his first ever international century on the New Zealand tour in early 2011 with fashion. The year 2011 had been the most kind thus far to Hafeez as in the following ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, he started the tournament with a few poor scores with the bat, but remained ever-consistent with the ball. Furthermore, Hafeez went on to score two more centuries in both one-day internationals and test cricket to add to his tally efficiently and remained useful with the ball and in the field. In summary, the man averaged a healthy 38 with the bat and 28 with the ball to round off 2011. The multifaceted puzzle finally appeared to be falling back into place until life continued to see the year 2012.
The year 2012 saw the birth of the old Mohammed Hafeez as he failed to deliver with the bat against the English in the United Arab Emirates and more recently the Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka. In between that, surprisingly the man stormed his way to a fantastic display of all-round skill in the Asia Cup. On the entire however, Hafeez has little to show this year with a batting average of under 20 but clings on to a very healthy bowling average of 31 across the mean of all formats. Having said that, the professor recently reached a career high milestone when moving ahead of Pakistan's premier bowler in Saeed Ajmal to take second spot in the ICC one-day internationals bowlers rankings. The Express Tribune quoted the news as the following:
"Mohammad Hafeez underlined his increasing importance to an in-form Pakistan side by storming to second position in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) player rankings for One-Day International (ODI) bowlers."
The latest performance of Mohammed Hafeez in test cricket on tour of Sri Lanka has been quietly impressive once again with both the willow and the cherry as he breezed his way to just four short of a double century in the second test in Colombo while claiming a handy 3/55 at Galle in the opener. Having been recently appointed the captain of the ship for the ICC World T20 2012, it remains to be seen whether the professor redeems himself to answer every critic on the field of play or has he met the definition of a purple patch with immense precision. The dilemma remains very much on the complicated side for Hafeez as he strives to meet his authentic identity in the sport. Few consider him as an opening batsman who can bowl, whilst the majority looks upon him as a bowler who can bat occasionally, though there lies a convinced group that considers him not worthy of being in the national team in the first place, all but adding to his individuality crisis.
Anticipating the future, the expectations from the selectors and fans alike have towered, the pressure has increased and so have the responsibilities, but that holds little excuse in the scheme of things as if Hafeez wants to fit the bill of being the best all-rounder in the current national side, it will be best required of him to see through all acknowledged barriers with effectiveness.