January 11, 2013

Allrounder Hafeez on top of his game

Over the last couple of years, Mohammad Hafeez has won 13 Man-of-the-Match awards in international cricket - more than any other player

The world's top-ranked ODI allrounder, the second-best bowler in the format, as well as the second-best allrounder in T20 internationals, according to the ICC rankings; plus, one half of the most successful ODI opening combination in the last year. Mohammad Hafeez is only three months short of completing one decade in international cricket (though he hasn't always been a part of the Pakistan team during this period), but the last couple of years have been quite remarkable, a period in which he has truly blossomed into a consistent performer with both bat and ball.

Even when Hafeez first came into the ODI team, as part of a new side in the aftermath of Pakistan's poor 2003 World Cup campaign, it was clear that he possessed the skills to contribute with both bat and ball, at least in the ODI format. He scored his first half-century in only his second ODI innings, and took five wickets at 17 and an economy rate of 3.54 in his first ODI series, a fairly forgettable tournament called the Cherry Blossom Cup in Sharjah that featured Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The start was extremely promising, but then came the slump. Over the next four years Hafeez's ODI batting was characterised either by early dismissals or by an inability to convert starts. After 48 ODIs his batting average had nosedived to 18.59, which was even worse than it looked as in most of those matches he had opened the batting. His bowling was adequate but not enough to save his place. When his Test batting also collapsed in 2007, it was time to leave him out of the Pakistan side in all formats.

After spending three years on the outer, Hafeez returned to international cricket late in 2010 as a far more consistent batsman (though still with the tendency to get out after getting his eye in), while his bowling stayed reliable and steady. The improvement in stats is obvious in the table below.

Since the beginning of 2011, Hafeez's batting and bowling stats in all formats are better than his overall career numbers. In ODIs his batting average has moved into the mid-30s, with all of his four centuries coming during this period. As an ODI bowler he has been far more economical, conceding just 3.56 runs per over. His Test batting average has moved into the 40s in this period, compared to his overall average of 38.41, while his highest Test score of 196 came against Sri Lanka in June 2012. His T20 stats have improved too in the last couple of years: all of his four half-centuries in T20Is have come during this period.

Mohammad Hafeez in the last two years, and in all international cricket (since Jan 2011)
  Matches Runs ave/ SR Career Ave/SR Wickets Ave/ ER Career ave/ ER
Tests 16 1152 42.67/ 59.04 38.41/ 53.93 23 25.43/ 2.32 35.00/ 2.43
ODIs 52 1648 33.63/ 74.20 27.28/ 68.74 47 30.57/ 3.56 32.86/ 4.01
T20Is 21 561 26.71/ 113.56 23.17/ 114.16 20 18.60/ 5.87 23.43/ 6.73

The stat that stands out among all the numbers above is his economy rate in ODIs in the last couple of years. In the 52 matches he played in during this period, the average economy rate achieved by all bowlers was 4.59; Hafeez's was 3.56, 22% better than the average in those games. Among bowlers who have sent down at least 150 overs during this period, his economy rate is the best. Admittedly Saeed Ajmal has taken many more wickets at an economy rate that's almost as good, but given that Hafeez has contributed with the bat as well, his bowling stats are remarkable.

Most economical ODI bowlers since Jan 2011 (Qual: 150 overs)
Bowler Matches Overs Wickets Average Econ rate
Mohammad Hafeez 52 403 47 30.57 3.56
Saeed Ajmal 39 338 73 17.53 3.78
Sunil Narine 20 189.5 37 19.48 3.79
Harbhajan Singh 17 164 17 41.29 4.28
Dale Steyn 23 184.1 35 22.97 4.36
Shahid Afridi 43 361 60 26.40 4.38
Graeme Swann 30 259 39 29.30 4.41
Ray Price 19 176 20 39.05 4.43

Ajmal is clearly the more attacking bowler, with more wicket-taking options in his armoury, but Hafeez's value as a bowler to Pakistan has been his ability to bowl with the new ball, inside the first 15 overs, when the fielding restrictions are on and spinners usually struggle to grip and control the ball. In the last couple of years Hafeez has bowled 678 deliveries within the first 15 overs of an innings, 228 more than the next best. In those 678 balls he has taken 14 wickets at an economy rate of 3.11, and conceded only 23 fours and six sixes, an average of one four or six conceded every 23 balls. Most of the other spinners have conceded boundaries at a far greater frequency when bowling in the early part of an innings. Among spinners who have bowled at least 30 overs (180 balls) in the first 15, only Zimbabwe's Ray Price has a better economy rate.

Most balls bowled by a spinner in the first 15 overs of an ODI since Jan 2011
Bowler Balls Wickets Average Econ rate Balls per 4/6
Mohammad Hafeez 678 14 25.14 3.11 23.38
Abdur Razzak 450 7 44.85 4.18 11.54
Shahid Afridi 342 8 29.25 4.10 21.38
Sunil Narine 336 9 22.22 3.57 14.61
Ray Price 324 6 23.83 2.64 21.60
Shakib Al Hasan 308 8 25.00 3.89 15.40
Tillakaratne Dilshan 306 3 76.00 4.47 20.40
R Ashwin 276 4 57.00 4.95 14.53
Prosper Utseya 270 4 47.25 4.20 14.21
Graeme Swann 264 5 37.00 4.20 18.86

In T20 internationals too, Hafeez's economy rate over the last two years is the best (among bowlers who have bowled at least 40 overs). The overall economy rate in the 21 matches he has played in is 6.86, a run per over more than Hafeez's 5.87.

Best economy rates in T20Is since Jan 2011 (Qual: 40 overs)
Bowler Overs Wickets Average Econ rate
Mohammad Hafeez 63.2 20 18.60 5.87
George Dockrell 40.1 15 16.00 5.97
Saeed Ajmal 82 30 16.60 6.07
Sunil Narine 47.4 16 18.37 6.16
Graeme Swann 68 21 20.19 6.23
Nuwan Kulasekara 42 14 18.85 6.28

And then there's Mohammad Hafeez the batsman. In Tests he has scored 1152 runs at an average of more than 42; only Azhar Ali has scored more runs and centuries among Pakistan batsmen.

Highest run scorers in Tests for Pakistan since Jan 2011
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Azhar Ali 16 1283 49.34 4/ 8
Mohammad Hafeez 16 1152 42.67 3/ 4
Younis Khan 14 1125 59.21 3/ 5
Taufeeq Umar 16 1077 38.46 3/ 5
Misbah-ul-Haq 15 1056 58.66 1/ 10

In one-day internationals and T20 internationals, Hafeez is the leading run scorer for Pakistan during this period. Out of nine ODI hundreds for Pakistan, Hafeez has contributed four; the ratio is exactly the same for half-centuries in T20 internationals. Combine all three formats and Hafeez is the only Pakistan batsman to score more than 3000 international runs in the last couple of years. In ODIs, Hafeez has also forged two successful opening combinations for Pakistan: first with Imran Farhat (632 runs in 14 innings at 48.61) and currently with the hugely impressive Nasir Jamshed (760 runs in nine innings at 84.44), who is in line to become the fastest to 1000 ODI runs for Pakistan.

Perhaps the best way to sum up Hafeez's contribution to Pakistan over these last two years is to state that he has won 13 Man-of-the-Match awards during this period - seven in ODIs, five in T20 internationals, and one in Tests. No other player has won as many awards for any team in international cricket.

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