Mohammad Hafeez, the second-longest serving Pakistan cricketer in the current setup, could yet extend his 17-year career. Hafeez’s original plan was to retire in November this year, after the T20 World Cup in Australia but he said – in a video conference – that he would continue to make himself available if the tournament was delayed due to Covid-19. Hafeez said he wanted to go out on a winning note.
“I gave retiring from T20 cricket after the World Cup a lot of thought. Just like when I retired from Test cricket, I decided to retire on my own terms. It took into consideration my own goals, as well as the interests of Pakistan cricket. I want to retire from T20 cricket after playing a big tournament in which I perform well, and hopefully go out on a winning note. This is my plan, and if the World T20 is postponed to November or some later time, that doesn’t mean I won’t play it.”
The length of Hafeez’s career has meant there have been several calls over the years for Pakistan to move on to younger prospects, but the allrounder continues to work himself back into the side. Hafeez has played all but one World T20 – the one Pakistan won in 2009. Should he play the upcoming one, he’d tie the Pakistan record for most World T20s played, equaling Shahid Afridi’s five.
He retired from Test cricket in December 2018, but continued to make himself available in the shorter formats. He was called up for the three-match T20I home series against Bangladesh in January this year, the first time he featured in a T20I in over a year. Following that, he announced that the T20 World Cup would be his final tournament. Hafeez insisted whenever it was played, he would ensure he was physically up for the challenge.
“I would like to play it, because I have never compromised on ensuring my skillset and my physical preparation. I will never be found lacking in the requirements necessary to play cricket for Pakistan. If the tournament is delayed, I’ll ensure my physical fitness is up to standard, so I can play in it when it does take place. If there are better options at international level, then of course they’ll play, and I’ll happily step aside. In that case I’ll turn my focus to international leagues, which I hope to play another couple of years,” he said.
One of the higher-profile names calling for Hafeez to call it quits was Ramiz Raja, who said earlier this year Hafeez and fellow veteran Shoaib Malik should “retire gracefully”. This week, he doubled down on his comments, criticizing Misbah for including the pair in the squad for the England tour, calling Hafeez a “weak fielder” while saying his performance was “not the same anymore”. Hafeez, however, made it clear he wouldn’t be taking heed of those comments, and would make decisions about his career on his own terms.
“Ramiz bhai is a friend of mine,” he said. “Everyone has the right to express themselves. But I’m not going to quit cricket because someone asks me to, same as I never started playing at someone else’s behest. Playing for Pakistan is an honour for me. Even when I started in 2003, people thought Hafeez should not play cricket because I came from a very small town – Sargodha. I’ve spent the last 17 years justifying my selection, and I hope I’ll justify my selection again this time. All I’d like to say is – my career, my choice.”