One of the key batsmen for the Peshawar Zalmi squad in the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League, Mohammad Hafeez has also served Pakistan with distinction representing the country in 293 games where he has amassed 10220 runs and also taken a more than useful haul of 227 wickets.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Hafeez spoke about his hopes of bowling once again for the Pakistan team, his experience of the PSL and his take on the outstanding performers in this tournament, as well as Pakistan's chances in the World T20 tournament.
By Amir Husain (19th February, 2016)
PakPassion.net : Are you confident that you will, at some point in the future, be cleared to bowl again?
Mohammad Hafeez : Yes, definitely so. I have been working on fixing my action since July last year when the ban was put in place. Obviously due to international commitments, I don’t get enough time as my attention is more on batting during these times. But, as I said I am working on this and I feel that my action is fine now but as per official regulations, I have to wait until July of this year before I can be re-tested and hopefully come back to the team as a bowler again.
PakPassion.net : How does it feel knowing that you had the same bowling action throughout your career but only recently were banned because of it?
Mohammad Hafeez : I have said this before and let me repeat it again. There is nothing in my action that I have changed in recent times in my bowling. I have bowled like this for the past thirteen years or so. Let me also say that I am all in favour of the authorities being pro-active in trying to stem the spread of illegal actions but, I would like them to check every bowler who plays international cricket.
I believe that depending on evidence of the human eye to pick up illegal actions as we do at the moment when we rely on the judgment of umpires, is not the way forward and a proper test needs to be done on each and every bowler. I am not implying that all bowlers have this issue but I am convinced that there will be many bowlers who will fail the test. I am only saying this for the benefit of the game. I am, however, very confident that the re-modeling of my action is correct and I will be able to pass the test in July.
PakPassion.net : Do you think not being able to bowl in international cricket has actually helped you with your batting?
Mohammad Hafeez : Basically, I am a batsman and that has always been an area I have concentrated on even during the time I was bowling in international cricket. Having said that, my bowling was a plus point which would help in providing a good balance to the team combination. I therefore continued bowling and that helped the team and also helped me in attaining personal goals. So getting to the number one all-rounder position in both T20Is (2014) and ODIs (2013) was a great honour for me. This was something that had never been done before by a Pakistan player. I fully intend to take back the top all-rounder position in Pakistan in the future. Whilst batting is important for me, I am still dedicated to the task of bowling and I am confident that I will clear any hurdles in my way and help Pakistan with my bowling as I did before. I must reiterate that I achieved all honours for Pakistan in the past and would love to regain them again for my country, God Willing.
PakPassion.net : Coming to the subject of the Pakistan Super League, what are your thoughts about this tournament?
Mohammad Hafeez : PSL is a great event and a significant milestone in our cricket history. It was late in coming but now that it is here, I am pleased to say that it is very impressive and very successful. This is a league where the quality of cricket is very good and above all it is being enjoyed by viewers on the ground and by many others watching in Pakistan. The games are very competitive and entertaining and the players are showcasing their best skills to a global audience.
If you think about the advantages of this league then in my mind the most important one is that Pakistan cricket has never had such a competitive T20 league before. What this means is that the ability to execute skills in a high-pressure environment will steadily increase for our players. Not only will this help our up-and-coming younger players, it will also be of benefit for our experienced cricketers as well. The other obvious positive from this tournament is the emergence of newer talent as the franchises are picking players without any external pressure and at the end of the day, the performances in the PSL will eventually help Pakistan in the longer run.
PakPassion.net : Surely it’s not up to the PSL to unearth fresh talent for Pakistan?
Mohammad Hafeez : I would agree with that completely. Apart from holding the PSL, it is also equally important for us to develop and iron out issues in our domestic cricket. We need to take some drastic measures to fix problems at home and make some sacrifices along the way. If such steps make people unhappy, so be it, as the larger goal of improving our cricket is more important. The combination of PSL and an improved domestic cricket structure is what will deliver a product which will be the pride of Pakistan and put us at the number one position in world cricket.
PakPassion.net : What improvements do you wish to see in future editions of the PSL?
Mohammad Hafeez : In any venture, there is always room for improvement. The most important thing for me is for the PSL to be moved to Pakistan at the earliest. It will be very special for all of us to see our crowds flocking back to the stadiums to watch these games. The other aspect of change is something we all know which is that there is a lot of talent in Pakistan that has not been able to find a place in the current set of five PSL teams. It would be great if the PCB can consider increasing the number of teams by one or two then we can be assured of seeing even more Pakistani talent emerging from this tournament.
PakPassion.net : Which young players have impressed you through this tournament?
Mohammad Hafeez : There are many excellent players who have put in some extraordinary performances. Amongst the younger or up-and-coming ones, I have to say that I have been really impressed by my young team-mate at Peshawar Zalmi, Mohammad Asghar. His ability to spin the ball and make good use of variations, under tremendous pressure and with control of his nerves, is very heartening and impressive. Mohammad Nawaz of the Quetta Gladiators is another one who has caught my eye due to his bowling although his batting hasn't been that impressive, possibly due to the pressure he has faced. Apart from that Asif Ali of Islamabad United has been doing well although he hasn’t had too many chances and I feel that he can improve further if given more opportunities in the future.
PakPassion.net : How has your experience been with the Peshawar Zalmi squad during PSL?
Mohammad Hafeez : We have played some excellent cricket as a team in this tournament with each player performing his role as planned. What has made our team different from other teams in this tournament is that the line-up consists of specialists. I would say that apart from Shahid Afridi, we don’t have any players who can be classed as an all-rounder. Our batsmen are accomplished in their field of expertise as are our bowlers. So the combination that we have is excellent and I expect us to accomplish big things in this tournament and go all the way, Inshallah (God willing).
PakPassion.net : What are your views on the incident involving Wahab Riaz and Ahmed Shehzad?
Mohammad Hafeez : A lot has been said on this issue and both players have also expressed their views on this incident. All I will say is that this is not a huge issue but seems to have been accentuated by the media and some people. Things like that can happen in the heat of the moment. As a player I know that sometimes we are unable to control our emotions and let them take the better of us. I know both of them personally and also know for a fact that they are best of friends. A stop needs to be put on trying to put too much of a negative spin on this incident now.
PakPassion.net : Why do you think that Pakistan are struggling to produce world-class batsmen?
Mohammad Hafeez : A tournament like PSL can help you unearth some talent which can function well under pressure, but if you want quality batsmen, you will need to fix the quality of domestic cricket. There are no two-ways about it. We need to pay attention to club level cricket and to First-Class cricket. Both of these types of cricket need to be developed into a highly competitive level of cricket if we are to produce these world beater and high quality batsmen. If we are even compromising on the quality of balls being used in domestic cricket then we cannot improve the quality of our domestic batsmen, nor can we produce quality fast-bowlers or spinners for that matter. As we know, the talent that plays for us on the international level must emerge from domestic cricket and unless the skills of these players are within 40%-60% of what is needed at the international stage, then we will always struggle to find players of high quality.
PakPassion.net : What are Pakistan’s chances in the World T20 tournament in India?
Mohammad Hafeez : First of all let me say that I have always been impressed by the amount of affection we get from the crowds in India. Of course they will support their own team but whatever the match situation or result, they always made us feel at home in their country and I am looking forward to playing in India.
Now coming to the question of our chances, we all know that the Pakistan team always brings its best game to such tournaments. The whole world knows and recognizes the talent this team has to offer to the world. Although, I do admit that in recent times, we haven’t been playing to the best of our abilities in the Twenty20 format but rest assured, we will be putting our best performances in this tournament. This is a format of cricket where any team can beat another and we are confident of a good showing.