Mohammed Hafeez began his ODI career in 2003 as an opening batsman, and more than half of his innings in the format have come from that position.
The latter part of his career has seen his role change. Since 2015 he has opened the batting on just three occasions, with Pakistan having preferred to use him at No. 4, and on the face of it, his returns justify the switch. His 120 innings in the top two have brought four centuries at an average of 29.76. When batting in positions 3-5, he has averaged 38.95 and scored seven tons. His strike-rate is also superior when batting in the middle order.
Hafeez himself, however, still regards Nos. 1 and 2 as his best positions. "I am an opener and want to play as one,” he told Cricbuzz. This team management had asked me to play an anchor role at number four because we have new openers who are growing and playing well. I play for the Pakistan team and try to fit in the role which is offered to me.
“Since I have played as an opener for 16-17 years since the start of my career, it becomes very difficult to go down the order. I always want to have more overs so I can take upon the responsibility and win matches for Pakistan."
That doesn’t mean Hafeez sees himself as ill-suited to the middle order; over a long international career, he reckons he’s gained the experience to thrive in any situation. "I am not a one-dimensional player," he said. "I believe I can play every kind of innings. On many occasions, in my career, I have delivered in tough and pressure situations.”
Hafeez will face some of the most high-pressure situations of all this summer, when he takes part in the Men’s Cricket World Cup in England & Wales. Pakistan recently announced their squad, with some pundits rating one area of weakness a lack of power hitters in the squad. However, Hafeez doesn’t think the World Cup will be decided by which team is the best at hitting sixes from ball one.
“You have to play a good innings which should dominate the opposition after you have settled,” he said. “You don't win matches by slogging. Rather you have to build an innings for which, I feel, we have all the resources. The boys have sound technique and have the right talent which is being groomed. I feel we have all that is needed [in the batting department] to click in the tournament.”
Hafeez also offered an update on his hand injury, which had ruled him out of a large part of the Pakistan Super League. "I have fully recovered now. I am getting the time, required to get back into the fold after an injury, and within a week I will be able to play full matches."
Pakistan’s tour of England kicks off on 5 May when they play a T20I, before a five-match ODI series begins on 8 May.
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