Considered one of Pakistan's key batsmen on the current tour of England, the thirty-five-year-old Mohammad Hafeez has been facing a lean patch in his batting and has been unable to bowl due to a ban brought on by what was deemed an illegal bowling action. Despite his recent drop in form, Hafeez's record of fifty Test matches where he has 3452 runs to his name is expected to hold him in good stead in the near future as Pakistan struggle to find a good opening combination for their batting line-up.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Hafeez spoke about his preparations for the re-test on his bowling action, advice to young opening batsmen Sami Aslam and Shan Masood and his own disappointing form in the current Test series against England.
By Amir Husain (8th August, 2016)
PakPassion.net : How are the preparations coming along for the re-test on your bowling action?
Mohammad Hafeez : To be honest, I haven't been paying too much attention to this topic. This is because for the past three and a half months, no serious remedial work has been possible on my action which is necessary for successfully clearing the test. Obviously in that period, it was more important for me to concentrate on ensuring that I regained my fitness after injury to allow me to play as a batsman for the Pakistan team. I was able to play matches in England but during this time I continued to concentrate on rehab work for getting my fitness in order. This affected my preparations for the re-test as I could not continue the remedial work on my action with the same intensity as before. I did start to bowl again in the nets once my fitness had been restored and during this time, I also happened to come across Carl Crowe who had helped West Indies spinner Sunil Narine in the past as well.
I felt that it would be good to get some advice from Crowe on this matter and I made a request to the Pakistan Cricket Board via the team management who agreed for him to spend a couple of days with me to impart important information to help me improve my bowling action. With God’s grace, many things are better now with my action after his advice, but due to our busy schedule, there is no decision yet on the date of my re-test. I would however, like to do this test as soon as possible, but I also want to make sure that this time I go for the test when everything is right about my action and I am satisfied with my preparations and there is no reason for me to repeat this test again.
PakPassion.net : You have been bowling with the same action for many years. Did the issue with your bowling action catch you by surprise?
Mohammad Hafeez : Firstly, this specific question should be asked to the ICC. Maybe they will be in a better position to answer why such things are happening now and why these standards are not being applied universally on all bowlers and what was the reason for such a delay in their action when something was clearly wrong? The fact is that if they applied these criteria on all the bowlers around the world then a few who have done wonders at the highest level would struggle to meet these standards.
PakPassion.net : Are you feeling confident that you will be able to pass the re-test on your bowling action?
Mohammad Hafeez : If you recall, I worked very hard to clear tests before as well but I was banned again. I am not sure what happened at that time but that, I suppose, is another story. However, this time around, I will make doubly sure that I prepare well and am cleared for good.
PakPassion.net : Can you tell us a bit more about the time you recently spent with Carl Crowe. Was his advice regarding your bowling action of use?
Mohammad Hafeez : Carl has worked with many bowlers such as Sunil Narine who have been going through some difficulties with their bowling actions. He gives you the basics of what is needed and it is up to you to apply those techniques to yourself and see how your body responds to the changes he has recommended. In my case, he has given me advice and it’s up to me to now put that into practice and I hope I will be back soon as a bowler in the near future.
PakPassion.net : Given your recent struggles with the bat, do you think it is down to there being more pressure on you as you are only in the team as a batsman?
Mohammad Hafeez : Its always been my belief that my primary role is that of a batsman. It is true that being a bowler was adding extra value towards my career and also helped in composing the right combination for the Pakistan cricket team and to be honest, this arrangement has worked really well for the past five or six years. Having said that, I do miss having this dual role for the Pakistan team and I would like to reclaim the number one all-rounder tag which would be a great honour on behalf of my country and will also fill me with great pride.
PakPassion.net : Are you disappointed that you haven’t been able to convert some good starts to big scores and have failed to provide the team with good starts in England?
Mohammad Hafeez : You are absolutely correct in that every batsman wants to score big every time he goes out to bat for his country. I may have missed a couple of chances to play a big innings but I am not disappointed as I know this is how it goes sometimes in cricket. I am confident that I am playing well and God Willing I will be able to convert these starts to big scores in the near future. All cricketers go through lean patches but hopefully, if selected, at the Oval I will show people what I am capable of as a batsman.
PakPassion.net : Do you think it is difficult for Asian batsmen who are used to low bounce wickets to come to places like England, Australia or South Africa?
Mohammad Hafeez : To be honest, this is the same issue for all players because if you learn and play your cricket in one set of conditions and then are asked to play in another country then you will find it tough. It’s not just the Asian batsmen but even English players and some of the top Australian stars also find it tough when they go to Asia. So this is not an Asian problem alone. However, I will say that if you have a good technique and can adapt to different conditions well, and work hard then you will always score runs. Now as you know, the Future Tours Programme results in our team playing around the world so we need to be prepared to play anywhere which is why we are quite eager to play in different conditions to build our skills.
PakPassion.net : As a senior batsman in the team, what sort of advice are you giving to the less experience players like Shan Masood and Sami Aslam?
Mohammad Hafeez : The two names you mentioned are highly talented players who are trying to make a mark at the highest levels of the game. It is a difficult task and sometimes players are very lucky that they start performing from day one but for most, it takes time and involves a lot of hard work. In the case of Shan and Sami, the team management is doing a great job by giving them time and all the support that they need. I do wish them the best for their future and one must remember not to judge them based on one or two series as they have plenty to offer to Pakistan in the future. Now it’s up to these players to repay the confidence and support that they have received from the team management by putting in some good performances. As a senior player, I am always ready to offer my assistance to any player who needs my help as this not about me but about Pakistan. It’s not about your personal achievements but the legacy you leave for the country to take benefit from. Sami was superb at Edgbaston, he batted beautifully and I hope he can continue batting like that in future.
PakPassion.net : How do you compare Mickey Arthur as a coach compared to the previous head coach Waqar Younis?
Mohammad Hafeez : To start with you really cannot compare two different coaches in that way. The fact is that every coach wants to do well at the highest level but they also have a different route to success and also different styles of management. Mickey has very clear ideas of how he wishes to manage his players and a very clear mindset as well. From what we have seen so far, he is a hard-working professional but at the same time, he is easy going as well. One hopes that things will continue in this positive manner as it is always good to have someone with so much experience, especially when that experience includes games against us as well as he was coach of South Africa and Australia. So far things are working out well and I hope it continues that way in the future.
PakPassion.net : Having played against Virat Kohli and Joe Root, who do you rate as the better player?
Mohammad Hafeez : Both of the players you have mentioned are outstanding players for their countries as is Kane Williamson of New Zealand. If we look at Virat Kohli, he is doing a tremendous job for India and Joe Root as we have seen has stepped up for his country as well and they will definitely be the role models for the next generation of cricketers. But really there is no way to compare and rate the talents of all these batsmen. What is clear is that they are all doing the best for their own countries and it’s always a pleasure to watch them play well. I wish them all the best of luck and hope they continue doing well for the sake of the game of cricket.
PakPassion.net : You objected against the inclusion of Mohammad Amir in the Pakistan team earlier this year. How would you describe your relationship with him on the current tour of England?
Mohammad Hafeez : I believe that there was some confusion about the whole issue. Let me make it clear that what I expressed then was what can only be described as a principled stance, not taken against the individual, but rather against his actions. If anyone indulges in such activity, I will be the first one to raise my hand up and question their inclusion. Now since it came down to ensuring that the interest of Pakistan is served well, and if everyone accepted Amir back in the fold then I had no objections.
Amir is like a brother to me as is every other person who plays for Pakistan and he will have my support for that reason. Anyhow, all that is now history but my principled stance on this issue remains the same and will never change. Also, I am not the policy maker which is really the domain of the Pakistan Cricket Board and we have to support and respect every player who is playing for Pakistan.
PakPassion.net : You previously resigned as Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain. Is captaincy something you would like to reconsider at a future point in time?
Mohammad Hafeez : Let me start by saying that captaincy is offered to a player by the Chairman of the cricket board and is not something a player can choose to do if he wants it. Thankfully, in my tenure as captain the team was very settled and united. Now the PCB has announced captains for each format and the issue is settled. My main aim is to support the captain of whichever team I am asked to play in, instead of worrying about captaincy. This is what is required from each player and we will all support the captain whoever he is. At the end of the day, its only about supporting Pakistan and not about the glory of any individual.
PakPassion.net : How confident are you about performing well in the final Test of this series?
Mohammad Hafeez : The way we started the series at Lord’s was pleasant to watch and very uplifting for us as well. All team members stepped up and performed well but then we must also give credit to England for responding to the pressure of losing the first Test and winning the second and third Test matches. I must say that as a team we are still very confident for the remaining Test match. If you recall, I also expressed those sentiments before the start of the series when I said that we would do very well in England as we believe in each other’s abilities and have faith in our batting and bowling units.
We have been playing together for the last few years and the bond between team members is very strong and the confidence level is very high. We are looking forward to our next challenges and I do believe that we have all the skills needed to win the final Test and rest assured, we will try our level best to make this happen.