What’s the story?
Pakistan have added all rounder Mohammad Hafeez to their ODI squad for the upcoming five-match series against Australia. The 36-year old, who had recently managed to clear his bowling action, was included in the contingent as the 16th member at the behest of captain Azhar Ali and coach Mickey Arthur.
A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) release stated, “The selection committee headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq today received a request from Pakistan team management comprising coach Mickey Arthur and captain Azhar Ali for sending Mohammad Hafeez to Australia for the ODI series. The selection committee has decided to accept the request of the team management and chairman of the PCB has approved the same. Hafeez will join the team shortly as the 16th member in Australia.“
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Hafeez had been suspended from bowling for 12 months in July 2015 when his action was found to be illegal. Despite being eligible to apply for reassessment during the England tour last year, a calf strain prevented him from doing so. A string of low scores as well as fitness issues cost him his place midway through the trip and he was not considered for the ensuing home series against West Indies in UAE.
After working on his action for a month, the off-spinner took the reassessment test during November at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. He was cleared subsequently as all of his regular deliveries were within the permissible 15-degree limit.
The heart of the matter
Due to the absence of a viable all rounder, Pakistan struggled badly in the Test series. Among the major reasons behind their 0-3 loss was the inability of skipper Misbah-ul-Haq to monitor the workloads of his specialist bowlers.
Hafeez, whose previous international appearance came in the Southampton ODI against England, could slip back into the fifth bowler’s role. Even though his recent domestic form has not been particularly impressive, the right-hander’s vast experience in the 50-overs format tilted the scales in his favor.
Updated Pakistan ODI Squad – Azhar Ali (c), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Hafeez.
There will not be any warm-up match for Hafeez to get acclimatized to Australian conditions because of the packed modern-day schedule. The first ODI of the five-match series begins at the Gabba on the 13th and the next few games are slated to be held in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Adelaide.
Considering his free-spirited stroke play at the top of the order and utility as an off-spinner in different stages of the match, Pakistan seem to have made the right call in recalling Hafeez into the ODI team. Unlike in Tests, the new ball does not produce that much damage in the limited-overs formats. Hence, his batting should be fine. However, the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of his remodeled bowling action.