April 29, 2011

Mohammad Hafeez's second coming

He struggled in international cricket in his first attempt, but the Pakistani allrounder is doing much better this time around

If there were to be a contest for the most consistent scorer of elegant and effortless 30s and 40s in international cricket, Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez would be a strong contender to bag the prize. The ease with which he unveils a wide range of strokes, mostly with the aid of impeccable timing rather than brute force, suggests he is a batsman with far greater ability than his modest numbers indicate - a Test batting average of 31.44 after 29 innings, and an ODI one of 24.09 are usually the numbers of a strictly average performer. The good news for Pakistan supporters is that over the last eight months, Hafeez is gradually starting to translate some of that potential into performance - in ODIs at least.

Since making a comeback into Pakistan's one-day team on the tour to England in the summer of 2010 after a three-year hiatus, Hafeez has averaged close to 35, with six 50-plus scores in 26 innings, all as an opener, and has also scored a maiden century, in Christchurch earlier this year. In percentage terms, his average in his last 26 games is almost 88% better than that before 2010. Admittedly his numbers since 2010 aren't earth-shattering, but given Pakistan's problems at the top of the order in recent years and Hafeez's own dismal record in his first five years in international cricket, these stats are certainly encouraging.

As a bowler Hafeez remains a reliable option: reasonably economical, and consistently chipping in with wickets. Thus in his last 26 ODIs Hafeez has been excellent value for Pakistan, averaging almost 35 at a strike rate touching 80, and bowling about seven overs per game at an economy rate of 4.24. Not surprisingly three of his five Man-of-the-Match awards have come in 2011; the other two were in 2003.

Hafeez's ODI batting stats before and since 2010
Period ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Before 2010 48 874 18.59 58.15 0/ 4
Jan 2010 onwards 26 837 34.87 78.51 1/ 5
Career 74 1711 24.09 66.60 1/ 9
Hafeez's ODI bowling stats, before and since 2010
Period ODIs Wickets Average Economy rate
Before 2010 48 38 33.63 4.45
Jan 2010 onwards 26 22 32.59 4.24
Career 74 60 33.25 4.37

In fact, since the beginning of 2010 no Pakistan batsman has scored more ODI runs than Hafeez. Shahid Afridi has scored as many, but in eight more games. And among Pakistan batsmen who've scored at least 500 runs during this period, only the prolific Misbah-ul-Haq has a higher average.

Highest scorers for Pakistan in ODIs since Jan 2010
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Mohammad Hafeez 26 837 34.87 78.51 1/ 5
Shahid Afridi 34 837 27.90 140.67 2/ 1
Umar Akmal 29 824 34.33 83.23 0/ 5
Kamran Akmal 26 704 30.60 81.57 0/ 5
Misbah-ul-Haq 17 598 59.80 73.91 0/ 6
Younis Khan 24 515 24.52 64.45 0/ 4
Asad Shafiq 18 504 33.60 70.98 0/ 3

A break-up of Hafeez's recent ODI innings shows how his consistency has improved: before 2010 almost one in every two innings he played ended in single digits; now it has reduced by almost half. The disappointment is that though he has got starts, he has often wasted them, despite batting at a position that gives him the maximum number of overs at the crease. Forty percent of his innings since 2010 have ended between 20 and 49, which isn't a good stat for any top-order batsman, and is even worse for an opener. In terms of partnerships, though, Hafeez has forged one of the most successful for Pakistan post-2000 in terms of average partnership, putting together 60.70 with Kamran Akmal, with six 50-plus stands in 11 innings.

Hafeez's recent numbers are quite a contrast to some of the other Pakistan batsmen. For example, Ahmed Shehzad has scored two centuries in 12 innings in 2011, but in the 10 innings when he hasn't got a hundred, he has aggregated 139.

No. of innings in each range of scores
  0-9* 10-19* 20-49* 50+
Before 2010 22 (46.81%) 7 (14.89%) 14 (29.79%) 4 (8.51%)
Since Jan 2010 6 (24%) 3 (12%) 10 (40%) 6 (24%)
* excludes not-outs

Add his offspin to his batting ability and Hafeez is one of seven allrounders to have scored more than 500 runs and taken more than 20 wickets in ODIs since the beginning of 2010. In terms of the difference between batting and bowling averages, he is in fifth place, after Shane Watson, Kevin O'Brien, Yuvraj Singh and Shakib Al Hasan.

Allrounders who've scored more than 500 runs and taken more than 20 wickets in ODIs since Jan 2010
Player ODIs Runs Bat average Wickets Bowl average
Shane Watson 37 1661 48.85 34 29.29
Kevin O'Brien 23 650 40.62 29 22.65
Yuvraj Singh 29 802 40.10 31 28.70
Shakib Al Hasan 36 998 30.24 55 27.92
Mohammad Hafeez 26 837 34.87 22 32.59
Shahid Afridi 34 837 27.90 46 30.58
Kieron Pollard 24 579 26.31 20 33.60

The challenge for Hafeez is to sustain these numbers in ODIs - after all, it's less than a year since he started his revival - and achieve similar figures in Tests and Twenty20 internationals as well. In Tests Hafeez hasn't had too many chances, having played only four since 2010, but in the 20-over version he has been a disappointment at international level, showing little of the fire power that has made him such a potent force in domestic 20-over competitions. In domestic Twenty20 games since 2009, he has scored 377 runs at an average of 47.12 and a strike rate of 144.44, with a century and three fifties in nine innings. In 11 innings in Twenty20 internationals, on the other hand, he averages 17 at a strike rate of 108, with a highest score of 46.

All stats updated till the second ODI of the five-match series between West Indies and Pakistan.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo