Hafeez: a hat-trick of suspensions

K Shahid looks into what the future might hold for Mohammed Hafeez after a third bowling ban

Hafeez: a hat-trick of suspensions
Last week the International Cricket Council suspended Mohammad Hafeez from bowling after his action was found to be illegal, since it exceeds the 15-degree level of tolerance that is permitted under regulations.

Hafeez underwent the assessment on the 1st of November after being reported during the third ODI against Sri Lanka on October 18. But he can apply for reassessment, after modifying his action as per clause 4.5 of the Regulations.

“Saddened to know the result of my bowling action from ICC , it would never pull me down , wil never give up , worked so hard to remodelled it &wil work again twice harder to get better to serve my beloved country Pakistan ????& Achieve MORE #NO1allrounder” tweeted Hafeez when the verdict was announced.

This was soon followed by the decision to skip the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), to focus on remodeling his action for the third time in three years.

“I have decided to not go to Bangladesh to play for the Comilla Victorians and instead I will remain in Lahore and work on my bowling action before taking a bio-mechanics test again at a ICC accredited laboratory,” Hafeez said.

While it is great that Hafeez has decided to focus on remodeling his action yet again, the repeated infringements mean that whatever changes he makes, he isn’t able to retain it for a long enough period. And so perhaps when fatigue creeps in, the arm starts bending more than 15 degrees.

Hafeez's plan henceforth should be simple: just focus on the batting

Without sounding too pessimistic, it is becoming evident that Hafeez’s status as an all-rounder is in jeopardy in the long run. What he might be eying right now is perhaps one last attempt to get the action fixed and get a chance at participating in the ODI World Cup in 2019 and the World T20 in 2020, after which he can perhaps pull the curtains down on a long, and in many ways illustrious, career.

The timing of the ban is particularly hard on Hafeez, considering both his individual performances and the team’s results. Pakistan’s recent surge in the limited-overs formats, especially the turnaround in the ODIs – as exclamation marked by the Champions Trophy win – has seen Hafeez become an integral part of that middle-order. And this, at long last, has been because of a visible change in his approach to batting and not merely based on the number of matches he has played for Pakistan.

That change was visible in Pakistan’s final win against India in the Champions Trophy final and how he batted in the final overs. And yet, throughout his career, it is Hafeez’s bowling that has made him an integral part of the Pakistan teams in this decade.

Hafeez’s plan of action henceforth should be pretty simple. He would not be allowed to bowl in international matches, and the PCB is unlikely to allow him that in the PSL either, which means that he should now be focusing on his batting.

Hafeez has managed to be a part of Pakistani sides even during the bowling bans, but it’s evident that he’s not nearly the same player when that happens, and not nearly as indispensable. However, despite the upward surge of Pakistan in limited-overs cricket, there is still a void for a reliable positive batsman in the middle and lower-middle order.

Hafeez has showed that he has all the ability to be that batsman, when he plays with the right mindset. An aggressive, on-form Hafeez can be valuable for his franchises and of course the national side as well. If he can focus on that for the time being, he’ll be under less pressure to get his bowling back in order.