A few days back I happened to hear the first part of an interview before I had to rush to meet an appointment. It was quite an interesting talk, given by Mohammad Hafeez. It was perhaps an opportunity provided to settle scores; or the interviewer cunningly made him reveal in his defence whatever could be revealed without taking names.
It is not that there was any doubt in my opinion that the target was Shahid Afridi. He was made out as the scheming mastermind who feeds inside news to “immature anchors and media” according to Hafeez. The former Pakistan T20 captain went on to claim that all of it was fabricated with mischievous objectives.
Let me say upfront that I think Hafeez is a hard working player who tries his best to improve his batting but can’t. He wants us to believe that he has earned the status of a professor when he has got pitifully little to show for it. I do not for a second believe that he has trickery in mind against Misbah-ul-Haq. I believe they are good friends if only because Misbah has played alongside Hafeez for quite some years now.
They have played together in SNGPL and Faisalabad Wolves. Even when playing for Pakistan, they have backed each other. Hafeez is to me a selfish player but not someone who would go around knifing a friend in the back.
My question is: why would Afridi do that? It is clear to him that Misbah will be retiring sooner than him and that it is only a matter of time before Hafeez falls on his own sword (and that has happened). Yes, there are always leaks as players have different mindsets. There are differences within the team on strategy or alliances with other players. But then there are also loaded questions put to players.
An example of that would be a reporter asking Afridi whether he was ready to take up the T20 captaincy if asked. If Afridi were to say ‘no’ — although he may believe he can do a good job — he’d never be offered the job by the PCB believing that he’s not interested. So he said ‘yes’. Now if someone can translate that into a conspiracy against the captain, it holds no water with me.
For it was clear after the disastrous World Twenty20 campaign that Hafeez would not be able to hold on to the job. This would have left Afridi as the natural choice; Afridi did not need to instigate anything.
Sadly Hafeez was led on to the action of Afridi sitting in the players’ dressing room and throwing his hands up in frustration as the Pakistani batsmen in the middle just tapped and tapped despite knowing a win was essential. He was perhaps one of more than 20 million Pakistanis watching at the time who were going through the same frustration. To call that a deliberate act for the cameras is I feel going too far.
From what I saw of the interview it was clear that Hafeez was on a mission to show himself as the victim. He mentioned that he set a precedent of taking responsibility for the defeat, tacitly putting in that everyone comes forward to claim his share when he has led Pakistan to victory. That’s ridiculous because Hafeez led Pakistan to absolute madness in the middle in both 2012 and 2014 World Twenty20s. There is the odd shared series or a triumph against a lowly-rated team; perhaps the singular one here or there against a good side.
Hafeez also had no clear answer when asked why he had refused to resign when questioned on the return home.
Regarding Shoaib Malik he vehemently said that the selectors were equally convinced that experience was necessary. But the fact that he backed him shows he showed no sense himself because you only bank on experience if the player has a recent record worth the risk. Malik had been flopping miserably since World T20 all through the Champions Trophy in 2013.
But what astonished me most was his defence of his decision to leave out Sharjeel and Junaid Khan from the playing line ups in the World T20.
Regarding the pacer he felt he didn’t fit into the combination as they wanted to go in with maximum spinners and only Umar Gul as a specialist opening bowler. Then he said that in the game against West Indies Sohail Tanvir was preferred because he was a better limited overs bowler. Sad state of judgment indeed considering Junaid Khan’s recent performances whenever selected and Sohail Tanvir’s average; again a one-off performance over the last couple of years.
His explanation of why they kept out Sharjeel left me stunned. Hafeez took great pains to point out that Sharjeel had scored a fifty when he had come in a year or so before and then went six or seven games without scoring much, getting to a fifty near the end leading up to the tournament. According to Hafeez, that is not the sign of a top order batsman. Amazing, isn’t it considering he had had exactly the same record his entire career. And then he demands that he be respected and guaranteed a place in the top three. Frankly I couldn’t believe it when he said Sharjeel had a technical flaw as well. Hilarious! This coming from an absolute failure on both consistency and technique.
I have always said that because of his bowling, which he mysteriously hid in both previous World T20s when shots were being played by the batting side, Hafeez should be given an opportunity in the middle order or at No 7.