Akmal’ed and Malik’ed in the same game, the poor batting form seems to have finally unruffled Mohammad Hafeez’s well composed exterior. The body language can only take a certain amount of toll, before giving way to the inner storm that has been brewing inside Professor’s head.
With aggressive batting at the top by the re-born Hafeez has won over a plethora of fans over the past year, but recent struggles with the bat (he remains an uncanny off-spinner) have played havoc with his confidence and self belief during the recently concluded tour of UAE against England.
His first ball return catch duck against Jade Dernbach was a classic example of a man void of self-belief. A tame poke back to the bowler, with the bat turning in his hand was uncharacteristic of a man who usually creams those with ease to the cover boundary.
He scored 1885 runs across all formats during the last calendar year, while picking up 57 wickets. His only score above 50 this year in 14 innings (all three formats) was the 88 he made in the 1st Test against England. His bowling clearly affected by the struggles with the bat, has lost the wicket taking venom, but remains highly economical and essential to the balance of the squad. What has changed so drastically for the man from Sargodha, who was the most improved player in world cricket in 2011?
After rotting in the wilderness of Pakistani domestic cricket for so long, the sort of comeback, based on consistent performances with both bat and ball prove that the man they affectionately call ‘Chanda’ is as resilient as they come. A blip in his performance will not deter his determination to do well for his country; however a trip to a sports psychiatrist might help to remove that mental block which still seems to exist against top teams.
Pakistani selectors and fans must be patient with one half of the most successful Pakistani opening partnership since Anwar and Sohail. He is worth much more than what his batting and bowling averages suggest in the current national set up, forming not only a successful batting partnership, but an integral part of the spin bowling troika in all formats of the game with Ajmal, Rehman and Afridi. What’s more, he is one of the favourites to take over the captaincy, once 37 year old Misbah retires.
Winning 10 Man of the Match awards in a calendar year is no fluke. Pakistan has wasted too many cricketers due to decisions made in haste without looking at the bigger picture. With a captain of Misbah’s intellect in charge and a board chief who has so far not made a fool out of itself, it can be expected that rationality will prevail.