ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

The overseas problems for Hafeez and other subcontinent openers

Many openers from the subcontinent have struggled overseas, but Mohammad Hafeez's stats are among the poorest

S Rajesh

September 27, 2013

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Dale Steyn removed Mohammad Hafeez in the second over of the morning, South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day, February 2, 2013
Mohammad Hafeez has struggled as an opener outside Asia, averaging 20.80 in 14 Tests © Getty Images

At around this time last year, Mohammad Hafeez was having his best run in Test cricket. Between September 2011 and June 2012, he scored 1053 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 53.20, with three centuries and a highest of 196. During that period, he was Pakistan's highest run-getter. A year later, his drop in form has been so steep that there have been widespread calls for him to be dropped from the squad for the series against South Africa in October.

On the basis of his recent stats, it's clear that Pakistan need to look elsewhere for a Test opener: in his last ten innings, Hafeez scored 102 runs at an average of 10.20. He has admitted that he has had a poor run, and it'll surprise no one if his name isn't in the squad for that series.

Clearly, Hafeez's problem has been facing the new ball outside Asia. He has played all his 66 innings in Test cricket as an opener, and in Asia, he has averaged 43.42 from 39 innings, with four hundreds in 20 Tests; in other continents, his average drops to 20.80 in 14 Tests, with only two 50-plus scores in 27 innings. His ODI record outside Asia looks better at first glance - an average of 33.71, which is higher than his career average, and five hundreds in 58 matches - but that's only because of the runs scored against Zimbabwe and Ireland. Against the top sides, his average outside Asia in ODIs drops to 25.79 in 46 games.

Hafeez's issues against the new ball outside Asia isn't unique to him, though his is an extreme case of a problem that has plagued most openers from the subcontinent. Tests in Australia, England and South Africa have always been the most challenging for batsmen from the subcontinent, and especially so for the openers. Sunil Gavaskar is the only opener from the subcontinent to score more than 1500 runs in these countries: in the 26 Tests he played in Australia and England (he didn't play at all in South Africa), Gavaskar averaged 45.04, about six runs lower than his career average.

More recently, while India's batsmen have done better than other subcontinent teams on these tours, the difference has largely been in the performances of the middle-order batsmen; the openers have struggled almost equally.

Top batsmen v other batsmen in the top seven in matches they played
Player For player Others in top seven Player 100 freq Others' 100 freq
Inns 100s Ave SR Inns 100s Ave SR
Kohli 186 30 55.8 91.7 2324 117 36.5 86.3 6.2 19.9
Tendulkar 452 49 44.8 86.2 5528 188 32.9 75.8 9.2 29.4
Richards 167 11 47.0 90.2 2244 41 28.6 62.5 15.2 54.7
De Villiers 213 24 53.6 100.2 2676 114 33.6 82.3 8.9 23.4
Amla 153 25 50.2 89.1 1878 85 34.6 85.5 6.1 22.9

The table below lists the averages of the openers from each of the subcontinent teams in Tests they've played in Australia, England and South Africa since 1990. It's interesting that Sri Lanka's openers have averaged the most, Bangladesh are second, India third, and Pakistan fourth (though all the averages lie in a narrow band between 27.90 and 30.70. That clearly shows there's little to choose between the openers of these teams, though India's middle order has been superior to the other teams during this period.

Openers from each of the subcontinent countries in Aus, Eng and SA in Tests since 1990
Team Tests Innings Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Sri Lanka 31 124 30.68 46.31 8/ 15
Bangladesh 10 40 29.42 56.75 2/ 7
India 52 196 28.04 43.10 10/ 23
Pakistan 47 180 27.90 49.28 7/ 24

The difference that Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman made to the Indian batting is clearly visible from the table below. Thanks largely to them, India's middle order averaged almost 40 in Australia, England and South Africa, while none of the other subcontinent teams touched 33. The Indian batsmen scored 34 hundreds from 52 Tests, while Pakistan's middle order managed only 18 from 47.

Nos.3-6 from each of the subcontinent countries in Aus, Eng and SA in Tests since 1990
Team Tests Innings Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
India 52 382 39.39 49.34 34/ 64
Sri Lanka 31 240 32.29 45.80 13/ 36
Pakistan 47 353 32.16 47.19 18/ 55
Bangladesh 10 80 17.51 46.04 0/ 5

In the openers' category, though, there's little to separate the four teams. Sri Lanka are ahead of the other three sides, thanks to Tillakaratne Dilshan - who averages 40.46 from eight Tests - and Marvan Atapattu, who averaged 34.44. Bangladesh's top performer has been Tamim Iqbal, with 346 runs from eight innings, including two hundreds in England, while Hannan Sarkar was also consistent in his six innings in South Africa and Australia.

The numbers for India's openers aren't as impressive as their middle order, largely because Virender Sehwag hasn't dazzled consistently in these conditions. He does have a few sparkling innings in Australia, England and South Africa, but his overall average of 34.60 when opening in these countries is well below his career average of 49.34. Gautam Gambhir has struggled too, averaging 32.67 from 15 innings, as has Wasim Jaffer, who averages less than 22. The better performers for India have all been batsmen who weren't openers to begin with - Ravi Shastri, Rahul Dravid and Dinesh Karthik all averaged more than 40 in that role.

Highest run-scorers among openers from subcontinent in Aus, Eng and SA in Tests since 1990
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Virender Sehwag 22 1419 34.60 71.19 3/ 6
Saeed Anwar 12 944 41.04 56.66 3/ 5
Marvan Atapattu 15 930 34.44 38.65 2/ 5
Aamer Sohail 14 814 37.00 56.48 1/ 3
Imran Farhat 18 788 23.17 45.86 0/ 4
Salman Butt 12 780 32.50 50.19 2/ 4
Sanath Jayasuriya 13 700 31.81 67.82 2/ 1
Ravi Shastri 9 695 46.33 35.54 3/ 0
Tillakaratne Dilshan 8 607 40.46 65.76 2/ 2
Gautam Gambhir 8 490 32.67 41.88 0/ 4
Wasim Jaffer 11 478 21.72 43.25 1/ 3
Rahul Dravid 7 445 40.45 38.72 2/ 1
Rameez Raja 8 395 30.38 50.12 0/ 3
Tamim Iqbal 4 346 43.25 76.54 2/ 1
Dinesh Karthik 4 326 46.57 47.38 0/ 4

Similarly, the pickings have been relatively slim for Pakistan as well. The classy Saeed Anwar scored a century in each of these countries and averaged 41 from 12 Tests, while Mohsin Khan had terrific tours of England and Australia in the early 1980s. Majid Khan, Aamer Sohail and Sadiq Mohammad were the others with 35-plus averages when opening in these countries. Among the current lot, Taufeeq Umar's stats stand out - in six innings, he has scored 298 at an average touching 50. Imran Farhat, though, has been poor: he has opened 34 times in these countries and hasn't scored a hundred - he averages 23.17 in these innings. (Click here for the list of Pakistan openers' stats in Australia, England and South Africa.)

However, even when compared to these performances, Hafeez scrapes the bottom of the barrel: among all subcontinent openers who've opened at least 12 times in these countries, only Pankaj Roy (average 13.70) has a poorer average as opener than Hafeez's 18.23.

Subcontinent openers with poorest averages in Aus, Eng and SA (Qual: 12 innings)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Pankaj Roy 17 233 13.70 0/ 1
Mohammad Hafeez 13 237 18.23 0/ 1
Hanif Mohammad 15 302 20.13 0/ 1
Wasim Jaffer 22 478 21.72 1/ 3
Imran Farhat 34 788 23.17 0/ 4
Mudassar Nazar 32 897 28.03 1/ 4
Rameez Raja 16 424 28.26 0/ 3
K Srikkanth 18 531 29.50 1/ 2

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments: 20 
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Posted by rajeev on (October 2, 2013, 6:56 GMT)

What is interesting in the openers since 1990 list is that dinesh karthik is there @ 46 odd average from 4 tests.. he still doesnt get the chance :-(. Agreed that maybe on a extended run he might not keep this average.. but we will never know.

Posted by Tom on (September 30, 2013, 14:56 GMT)

Hanif name in the low scoring list is surprising as he is regarded as one of the finest batsman from subcontinent. He played against some of the very best bowling in a very trying conditions. We just can't compare players like Dravid and Hanif against Salman Butt. Tamim and Suhail who has better averages but they are not the same class. These statistics are very misleading in a sports like Cricket which has so many factors and different playing conditions.

Posted by sachit on (September 30, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

LOL what is it with some people? This Rahul Patel guy sees some stats and wants to highlight his teams dominance :D oh but wait but i see has very carefully igonred the "Openers from each of the subcontinent countries in Aus, Eng and SA in Tests since 1990" section :). I really feel bad for you Mr. Rahul :)

Posted by Dummy4 on (September 28, 2013, 19:45 GMT)

If you go deep in Taufiq Umar's Stats he is averaging 70 against SA in four innings and made 280runs. So, he is a very good choice for Series against SA.

Posted by Dummy4 on (September 28, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

Hanif Muhammad would have had no issues with South Africa he was at a very high level the man had an innings of 499 and he is amongst the greats I remember playing these Brian Lara games as a kid and the only pak batsman in the all time 11 was him. Hafeez has just declined in batting and bowling and they should strongly consider dropping him he isn't at world class standard I'm afraid. Maybe dropping him will refocus him and we could see an improved hafeez for the future. The greatest injustice is against Abdul Razzaq it' disgusts me how the fine Pakistani players are ousted not based on performance.

Posted by Syed on (September 28, 2013, 12:15 GMT)

Hanif Muhammad averages 32+ in England and Aus, he scored centuries, BUT not as an opener. I guess he scored 187* at No. 3

Posted by shaikh on (September 27, 2013, 22:12 GMT)

some thing is wrong with hanif Muhammadès stats.i know that he made 187* at lords in 1967 beside that he also scored a century in Australia 1964-65.he never played a test match in south Africa though.

Posted by shahid on (September 27, 2013, 22:05 GMT)

Some analyst surely would ask an important question, is it worth playing Hafeez with a deficit of about 10 runs per innings as compared to others when he possibly can give you a couple of wickets in a test match? Answer will always be no as its not only a question about those 10 runs but more of his contribution in putting an undue pressure on rest of the batting line when they come in to a shining cherry. It is unbelieveable that PCB can go on to neglect TAUFIQ UMAR who is the only opner in the country with 40+ overall average combined with a very decent average in above mentioned 3 countries. But then what can you expect from PCB, if they didn't do such things, you wont call them PCB.

Posted by zaf on (September 27, 2013, 21:30 GMT)

Thanks for PCB, Kingsland Selection Board announced final 11 players for SA tour.

1)Younis Khan(CAPT) 2)Shan Massood 3)Nasir Jamshed 4)Shoiab Maqsood 5)Haris Sohail 6)Umar Akmal(WKP) 7)AFRIDI(Vice-CAPT) 8)Ajmal/Rehman 9)Junaid 10)Irfan 11)Ahmed Shahzad

Sorry no place for Mr. tuktuk, Asad Safiq, Azhar Ali, Adnan Akmal, Sohail Tanvir and Professor.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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