Hafeez wants Lahore Lions to live up to top billing
An experienced and explosive batting order and a strong bowling line-up have made Lahore Lions one of the favourites in the domestic Faysal Bank T-20 Cup, and they showed how dangerous they are in their opening match, comfortably beating Karachi Zebras by seven wickets. Their captain Mohammad Hafeez wanted his side to build on the impressive beginning.
"It's just a start but obviously the onus is on us, as a side filled with international players, to win the crown," Hafeez said at the post-match press conference. "There is a sense of responsibility in the boys and that they want to live up to the billing of being a star side. All of them are focused on winning the national championship."
Hafeez, who was appointed the Pakistan T20 captain in May this year, wasn't considered for the leadership role by Lions in the 14-team regional Twenty20 tournament. However, minutes before the Lions' first match against Karachi Zebras at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, the original captain Mohammad Yousuf passed on the role to him. "I didn't want to lead the side but it was Yousuf himself who insisted on me taking up the role otherwise I wanted to play as a regular player. I respect his decision and stepped in his role to do the job but still I am carrying on the same strategy as we planned to execute before the match."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Hafeez withdrew from his usual side, the Faisalabad Wolves, after differences with the city association over selection issues. He has been playing for Faisalabad Wolves in the domestic Twenty20 competition since 2005 but this year Hafeez, now a Lahore resident, chose to represent Lions. "Sargodha and Faisalabad are my own cities and it's tough to play against them but I wanted a change, that's why I'm playing for Lahore. Playing against Faisalabad is obviously a tough one, but on various instances, we have been playing against (each other) and sometimes in one team in domestic level. This is something similar and I am enjoying playing for Lahore."
Hafeez, who has opened for Pakistan in most of his T20 matches, surprisingly batted at No. 3 for Lions in the opening game against Karachi Zebras. He said there wasn't any plan to move him to No. 3 in the national team. "I didn't want to disturb the combination as both Nasir (Jamshed) and Ahmed (Shehzad) have been doing well for long. But it's just a temporary move only for the event and nothing to do with my national team spot. I don't know about the India series, that is something need to be discussed later. But at the moment this event is serving as a useful practice ahead of the India tour."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent