VETERAN Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez speaks to media on Wednesday. —Murtaza Ali/White Star
VETERAN Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez speaks to media on Wednesday. —Murtaza Ali/White Star

LAHORE: Former captain Mohammad Hafeez on Wednesday came in support of the current Pakistan team management which is under heavy criticism from many quarters in the wake of national team’s disastrous performance on their recently-concluded tour of New Zealand.

“My [individual] performance during the past one year improved mainly due to the effort of the national team’s current coaching staff, who are best in their skills,” Hafeez said while speaking as a guest of the Sports Journalists Association of Lahore (SJAL) in Lahore.

“All of them are available to the players and I think due to their coaching my performances during the last year or so were far better [than the earlier outings] for which the credit also goes to the coaching staff [Misbah-ul-Haq as head coach and others].”

In the calendar year 2020, right-handed Hafeez was Pakistan’s highest T20 run-getter in T20 Internationals, amassing 415 runs in eight innings featuring four half-centuries at an impressive average of 83.00.

Pakistan’s pathetic performance on their tour to New Zealand — where they lost both the T20 (1-2) and Test series (0-2) — led to a wave of criticism against Misbah, bowling coach Waqar Younis and batting coach Younis Khan, who was appointed to the post prior to the 2020 England tour.

“When a cricketer plays a big knock he takes the credit but when he earns a zero critics start blaming the coaches, which is not fair,” the 40-year-old Hafeez maintained.

When asked paceman Mohammad Amir had expressed his reservations against the incumbent coaching staff and had decided not to play for Pakistan further under them, Hafeez said announcing the retirement was Amir’s own decision.

“I had never opposed Amir [a convict in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal] but I was against his act of being involved in spot-fixing,” Hafeez said referring to the pacer’s return to Pakistan team in 2016 after serving the five-year spot-fixing ban.

Hafeez said he still maintains a strong stance against the menace of fixing in cricket.

Commenting on the forthcoming home series against South Africa, the seasoned all-rounder said it was a good sign that South African squad was touring Pakistan after more than 13 years, adding it was the best opportunity for him to play against them at home.

He said though he would be playing the T10 league in the UAE in January-February, he would be available for the Pakistan team.

The T20 home series against South Africa will be held in Lahore from Feb 11 to 14.

While acknowledging that Pakistan’s show in New Zealand was not satisfactory, Hafeez emphasised they had to play better cricket against South Africa.

About his meeting with PCB’s patron in chief Prime Minister Imran Khan held last year along with Misbah and Azhar Ali, which later become controversial, Hafeez said he was the frontman in that meeting.

“I presented my views before the patron in support of resuming departmental cricket.”

It may be mentioned here that after the meeting both Misbah and Azhar lost the chairmanship of the selection committee and Test captaincy, respectively, as sources had disclosed the prime minister was not happy with the trio over speaking on departmental cricket which was the policy matter of the PCB under which departmental cricket was abolished.

Hafeez said if the PCB had to abolish the departmental cricket, it should have come up with a better alternative plan to save the players’ interests.

“During the last couple of years no grassroots level cricket was held, which will definitely damage the game and the players,” Hafeez stated.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021

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