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A wise decision

Veteran all-rounder Hafeez did the right thing when he announced retirement from Test cricket. With young, talented people around he was unlikely to survive

A wise decision

After winning the Test series against Australia in the UAE, it was very much on the cards that Pakistan will also beat New Zealand at their “home” ground (the UAE).

But the Kiwis turned the tables and won the Test series by 2-1.  New Zealand won the first Test in Abu Dhabi by just 4 runs. Pakistan levelled the series in Dubai by an innings. The third Test, again in Abu Dhabi, at one stage was in control of Pakistan when Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq scored centuries.

The Test series will be remembered for many reasons. In the fourth morning of the third Test when Yasir Shah trapped lbw Kiwis night watchman Somerville he became the fastest 200 wicket-taker in Test cricket history.

Yasir broke 82-year-old record held by Australian legspinner Clarrie Grimmett who reached the mark in his 36th Test. Yasir Shah completed his 200 wickets in only his 33rd Test.

In the first innings of third Test veteran opener Mohammad Hafeez failed to open his account. After a disappointing Test series, the struggling opener announced retiring from Tests.

In the UAE, Hafeez did get a couple of chances to prove his mettle, but his performances except one hundred were not up to the mark.

Hafeez is no longer a good all-rounder. His bowling is no longer beneficial for the team. With his bat , too, he has been failing. To cap it all up, his fielding no longer shows a youth’s energy — he has turned 38 now. He has been virtually kept out of the ground since Arthur prefers young cricketers.

He made his comeback remarkable against Australia with a superb century, but he scored just 66 runs in the next seven innings. In his farewell Test, against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi last week, he scored 0 and 8.

The 38-year-old Hafeez made his Test debut against Bangladesh in August 2003. He played 55 Tests, scored 3652 runs, averaging 37.64 with 12 centuries and 10 fifties. He also took 53 wickets at an average of 34.04

In August this year Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) awarded central contract, increasing the monthly salary by 25-30% while the match fees were also increased by 20%. Most players accepted the contract happily, but Hafeez was not happy with his demotion from A to B category. Hafeez chose not to sign the contract. He said if PCB didn’t give him respect and restore his A category he would leave cricket. But the PCB stood firm and didn’t revise his contract.

During the tour of Zimbabwe earlier this year, he was part of the squad, but did not play a single match. The all-rounder was pretty upset with the fact that the team management ignored him for the ODI series after he declined the offer to play in the Global T20 League in Canada for Rs15 million.

The presence of Fakhar, Imam and Babar leaves no room for Hafeez in any format of the game. The openers Imam and Fakhar both scored two centuries in four games against Zimbabwe. Fakhar became the first Pakistani to score a double century in ODIs.

Arthur and other officials have decided to favour young players to prepare them for the World Cup next year. Arthur is reportedly not keen on including Hafeez in the World Cup squad.

He was axed from the Asia Cup squad as Inzamam-ul-Haq, chairman of the national selection committee, wanted to give other players a chance. Hafeez went back to domestic cricket and mounted pressures on the selectors with his performances with both bat and ball.

His double-century for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, against Habib Bank Limited, in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy pressed his case for a national return.

Despite multiple skills, Hafeez failed to cement his place in his first seven years in international cricket, primarily due to his inability to convert his starts into substantial scores. He scored plenty of pretty 30s and 40s.

Hafeez was banned as a bowler thrice: in November 2014, July 2015 and October 2017. But every time he managed to come back after remedial work on his action.

After change in bowling action, it’s not easy for a bowler to bowl with the same authority. Former off-spinner Saeed Ajmal is a prime example.

It is a good decision by Hafeez to leave Test cricket, as the next assignment of Green-shirts is in South Africa, where his record is not good. Hafeez has fallen to Dale Steyn 15 times in all international matches; no bowler has dismissed a batsman more often.  The two have come across each other 28 times since January 26, 2007, when in Cape Town Dale Steyn first bowled to Hafeez.

Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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