It has been over two years since Mohammad Hafeez ceased to open batting for Pakistan. And with Babar Azam taking the role of one-drop, he had to move further down the batting order, reported Cricbuzz.
Since the shift, which came about during Pakistan’s away ODI series against Australia in January 2017, Hafeez has rather been impressive in the middle-order (position four to seven). He has been averaging over 37 – which is almost four runs better than his career’s – while his strike rate has seen a jump of 10 runs from his overall to 86. But, if it were to Hafeez, he would go back opening the innings.
“Not really,” he said, when asked whether his potential as a middle-order batsman remained untapped as he played as an opener for the major part of his career. “I am an opener and want to play as one. This team management had asked me to play an anchor role at number four because we have new openers who are growing and playing well. I play for the Pakistan team and try to fit in the role which is offered to me.”
The 38-year-old’s blistering 37-ball unbeaten 57 against India in the Champions Trophy final at number five and an unbeaten 71 off 63 to anchor Pakistan’s chase of South Africa’s 266 at Port Elizabeth at number four earlier this year further consolidate his credentials as a middle-order batsman. Does this reflect that batting down the order suits him at the twilight of his career?
“I am not a one-dimensional player,” he said. “I believe I can play every kind of innings. On many occasions, in my career, I have delivered in tough and pressure situations. Since I have played as an opener for 16-17 years since the start of my career, it becomes very difficult to go down the order. I always want to have more overs so I can take upon the responsibility and win matches for Pakistan.”
With the modern-day standards now demanding batting units to score and chase totals in excess of 300 on regular basis, Pakistan’s batsmen have largely struggled. Their struggles are often attributed to the death of power-hitters in their lineup. But, for Hafeez, the World Cup will be won by executing the basics with perfection rather than going for all out slog.
“There’s a lot of talk on it. But, I deny this notion,” he said. “According to me, you have to play a good innings which should dominate the opposition after you have settled. You don’t win matches by slogging. Rather you have to build an innings for which, I feel, we have all the resources. The boys have sound technique and have the right talent which is being groomed. I feel we have all that is needed [in the batting department] to click in the tournament.”
Hafeez sustained a fracture in his thumb while fielding off his own bowling during the PSL in February this year. He was anticipated to return to the game during Australia ODIs. But, due to issues surrounding his first surgery, he had to go under another which has prolonged his hiatus to nine weeks.
“I have fully recovered now,” Hafeez said. “I am getting the time, required to get back into the fold after an injury, and within a week I will be able to play full matches.”