Playing his 55th Test international for Pakistan, Mohammad Hafeez walked away for the final time in test whites having scored 8 runs from 20 deliveries with a single boundary in the mix.
He was bowled in his final innings, by Tim Southee – completely done in by a delivery that seemed to swing both in the air and off the pitch, knocking over his off stump and shattering the set as he shakily tried to bring his bat forward, body stuck in limbo, feet unmoving.
This is not a fitting end for any batsman. A fitting end is what Alastair Cook had, scoring a hundred in your last innings at your home ground surrounded by love and adulation.
Yet as Mohammad Hafeez walked off the field, he did raise his bat a little, and the commentary made note of his test career that spanned over more than 15 years. This was perhaps not an end fitting for any batsman, but it might just have been reminiscent of Mohammad Hafeez specifically.
In his 55 games in 15 years, Hafeez scored 3652 runs at an average of a couple runs below 40. With 10 hundreds to his name and 12 fifties, his conversion rate was good. But the numbers better even than his conversion rate are the times he almost falls flat and fails. Test cricket did not come naturally to the Professor, but the congratulatory attitude that has marked his departure is undue. It is easy to forget that he was once also a handy bowler, having picked up 53 test scalps with a couple of four-wicket hauls to his name. One is also reminded of his imperious role of form in and around 2015, when he scored 197 against New Zealand, followed by a career best of 224 against Bangladesh and a 151 against England with quite a few hundred and 90-plus scored sprinkled in between.
Yet throughout his career, Mohammad Hafeez has somehow been viewed as an interloper, at least in Test cricket. Once seen as the natural successor to Misbah ul Haq’s captaincy, Hafeez only became a national name after 2010, when Pakistan was forced into some serious soul searching. While the team had been up to God knows what, he had been busy making an impression on the domestic scene, especially in the newly gaining importance T20 format.
Since then, he was been dropped and picked repeatedly. Always dropped in the backlash of Pakistan being Pakistan, and picked again in attempts to try and pick up the pieces. Sometimes, he managed to pick them up. Other times, most of the times, he didn’t. Expectations high and results mixed, the Professor got a rep worse than he deserved. When he was bowled on Friday, for the last time, it was poetic in a way because the delivery and bowler were so similar to Dale Steyn – the man who famously did a number on Hafeez that he could never really wash away. But as he walked away, he gladly took the claps that came his way. It was a pathetic gathering, as it usually is for Pakistan in its most historic moments in the UAE, but it was something at least.
After he did have that run in with Steyn, Hafeez did come back. Not in tests, but in T20s, scoring a blistering 84 against the Protease in the limited overs series that followed the tests. That was trademark Hafeez, fail, fail, fail some more and then wow. His test career is over, thankfully for him on his own terms and with some dignity, but it would be unwise to call for him to leave cricket completely. After all, if his three hundreds on the trot against Sri Lanka and effortless knocks in the Champions Trophy prove anything, he still has some cricket left in him. And with another humiliation on the cards, Pakistan needs all the cricket it can get.