'I had to do something to regain my confidence' - Hafeez
For the last few months, Mohammad Hafeez's selection has been justified because of his contribution with the ball. But his flop-show in the ODIs against Bangladesh, coupled with his lack of form with the bat, pushed him to the very edge.
Hafeez's Test career has resembled a zig-zag pattern. He made 197 against New Zealand last year, but had been dropped twice in the last two years. He was first dropped in 2013, after having been the part of the side consistently since 2010, for the South Africa series in UAE, but returned for the corresponding home Tests against Sri Lanka. He was once again dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka last year, but was called back to face Australia in UAE. Since then, he has scored 690 runs from seven innings at 115.
Hafeez is back, at least for now. He scored a crucial double-century on Thursday, having missed the landmark twice in the past. He has asserted his case strongly enough to make up for an otherwise idle month.
His double-hundred in Khulna was his first, overshadowing his recent record in limited-over cricket where he has only managed to score eight runs in three ODIs. Over the last five months, Hafeez has clearly not been at his best, and he was ruled out of the World Cup over his lack of fitness and inability to bowl in international cricket due to an illegal action.
During the training sessions before this Test, Hafeez hardly broke into a smile, and was often seen exclusively training with his assistant coach Shahid Aslam. But today, he entered into the press conference hall with a big broad smile. He looked satisfied, and warmly greeted the media.
"I was under pressure after the ODI series and I knew I had to do something to regain my confidence and I tried hard," he said. "There was a demand for the team to play a positive innings and I am happy that I have been able to do the best for my team. This was not really the best one, but you can say it's one of the best one I can remember, and a double-hundred is always something which is special for any batsman in the world.
"I didn't have to prove anything to anyone with this innings. I know things were taken that way in the past that I had to prove myself after every one or two matches, but I always go with my best efforts for the team and not for myself. My runs are for contribution for the team and are not for my personal goals."
Hafeez got to his double-century by sweeping behind square for two. He went down on his knee and performed the sajda. He then looked up at the sky for a few seconds, holding the bat with the upper blade. All the pressure of expectations was now cornered.
It wasn't a completely chance-less innings, though. Hafeez was originally was given out caught behind on 13 in the fourth over of the innings when his square cut missed the bat. However, he reviewed and survived. Later, when on 173, he got another life when Bangladesh reviewed for an lbw, but in vain.
"The first review I took, I knew I didn't nick and I am sure that nothing happened but I regathered myself and maintained my positive attitude towards my innings. Obviously I had in mind that I had missed out twice in 190s previously, and that was exactly in my mind and I had to ensure that this time I did not miss.
"I pushed myself hard to avoid any negative thoughts and not panic. I kept my calm stay at ease near the 200-mark. I missed my double in the past twice, and I didn't want to miss it this time so I had to pull myself again after both DRS calls and also I had a strong belief that I could do it this time."
Pakistan scored 106 in the first session, though they pulled down their run-rate by scoring only 88 after lunch. Hafeez felt Bangladesh started bowling negatively in patches, forcing Pakistan to a more cautious approach.
"At certain stages they bowled well and applied some techniques so according to that we had to adjust. They tried some negative bowling to pull themselves back from their attacking mindset, so that's why we didn't want to go with the flow.
"We didn't want to lose our grip from the match, so we rejigged our plan a bit to avoid attacking. But the way Sarfaraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq played at the end, that really got our momentum back and we are back on the road where we actually wanted to be."
Despite Shakib Al Hasan being Bangladesh's most experienced bowler, Hafeez was relatively more attacking against the spinner, hitting two sixes and scoring 57 off 67 deliveries.
"As a team we rate Shakib very highly since we know that he is one of the key factors in their team. But we wanted to minimise the Shakib impact by putting pressure on him. He was trying a bit too much, so I had to go with an attacking mindset. I didn't want to leave anything and tried to cash in every ball and this worked for me against him."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson