KARACHI: Senior all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez on Monday hit back at his detractors who had questioned the former Pakistan captain’s inclusion in the squad for the August-September tour of England, saying that he’ll retire on his own terms.
Hafeez, who will turn 40 on Oct 17 and has been recalled after missing the limited-over contests against Sri Lanka and Australia, said during the online Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) media conference that as long as he’s fit and in form, he will be available for national duty at the Twenty20 International level.
“This kind of reaction [criticism] has always been part of my cricketing life from the day I made international debut in 2003. Now 17 years on, nothing has changed probably because I came from a relatively small city like Sargodha,” said Hafeez. “And each time I performed to the best of my abilities to prove the critics wrong. Criticism, whether fair or otherwise, made me doubly determined to perform. If anyone says I shouldn’t be playing [for Pakistan] that is their personal opinion.
“Ramiz Raja [former Pakistan captain turned broadcaster] is a respected figure and I have high regard for him. If he comments that seniors like myself should be making way for youngsters, those are purely his views,” he said.
“My answer is clear-cut. I don’t play or quit at anyone’s wishes or whims. I feel extremely proud in saying that it has been a privilege and an honour to be playing for Pakistan. Generally speaking, I had justified my selection most of the time and Insha’Allah will do so again. At the end of the day, I’ll just say it is my career and my decision to play on or not.”
Hafeez reiterated he wanted to play white-ball cricket post-2019 World Cup because he was fit enough to play at the international level.
“My life has had its share of ups and downs and cricket too has not been an exception, considering its a passion not only for me but for many, many others. Being a resilient person, I never give up, trying as hard as possible to achieve the desired results by giving my best in a dignified manner,” he said. “I’m not one of those people who get disillusioned and start losing enthusiasm. After the 2019 World Cup, I was not picked but deep inside I felt that if I keep on maintaining fitness and form, the opportunities would come my way once again.”
Commenting on the upcoming tour, Hafeez admitted in the prevailing situation with standard operating procedures (SOPs) applying due to the pandemic of novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the journey ahead won’t be easy.
“We have no choice but to make adjustments to the conditions now engulfing the entire world. The menace [of Covid-19] has drastically changed our day-to-day living,” Hafeez noted. “But we are brave enough to fight it out and beat this virus by adjusting to a totally different sort of lifestyle. The scenario maybe extremely challenging but I don’t feel that one can’t adapt to the readjustments made for own sake.”
“And if we all respect and act according to the designated SOPs for the England tour, there won’t be much issues regards the well-being of all of us travelling and staying together. From my point of view, I’m thrilled to be part of this new concept.” he said.
“The playing rules may have been tweaked in the wake of current situation. But we are mature enough to follow the SOPs to protect ourselves from the perils [of Covid-19]. I’m sure these are temporary phases that we’ll sample during the tour and we are mentally ready for them by preparing very well,” Hafeez — who has played 55 Tests, 218 One-day Internationals and 91 T20Is — went on to say.
The seasoned off-spinning all-rounder who is popularly known as ‘Professor’, captained the country in consecutive ICC World Twenty20 competitions in 2012 and 2014 and wants to play in the next global edition of the shortest format too — which is scheduled to be hosted by Australia this October and November.
“That is something I’m looking forward as the last hurrah in my international career. And although there is uncertainty surrounding the event, I dearly want to be part of the team for one final ICC tournament,” Hafeez, who quit Test cricket in December 2018, said. “Even if the event is rescheduled, I’ll still keep working hard to get selected.”
Hafeez, meanwhile, observed the difficult playing conditions since the International Cricket Council (ICC) came down hard on the suspect bowling actions by making it mandatory the 15-degree restriction on the extension of bowling arm at elbow joint has robbed the game of fascinating battle between and ball.
“The beauty of cricket has gone for ever when ICC came up with this rule where the legal limit is 15 degrees for the straightening of the elbow joint. Saeed Ajmal was a great entertainer as one of the best off-spinners of his era. But the ICC ruling tragically cut short his career. I think the rule should be made more flexible because there was no better sight in cricket when batsmen confronted wily spinners like Saeed,” Hafeez, who himself was suspended for illegal bowling action thrice by the ICC, concluded.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2020