Hard work pays off for Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez's Man-of-the-Match winning 83 in the third ODI against Sri Lanka in Dubai has extended his prosperous run as opener, a slot that has been a headache for Pakistan in recent years.
Hafeez made his international debut in 2003 as part of the sweeping changes after the World Cup debacle in South Africa. He flitted in and out of the Pakistan team for seven years, and it was only during the controversial tour of England last year that he cemented a place in all three formats of the game.
Since the comeback in 2010, he's amassed 1350 ODI runs at a solid 39.79 and snapped up six Man-of-the-Match awards, assuring him a permanent slot. He said he had to work hard on his batting technique to succeed but his bowling was a natural ability that required little work.
"I worked very hard on my technique, which has paid off and really given me (a lot of) confidence," Hafeez said at the post-match press conference on Friday. "I am very thankful to the support staff, especially my batting coach - Shahid Aslam - who really worked hard with me to correct things. And I am very happy with the way I am performing for my country."
Besides runs at the top of the order, Hafeez has also chipped in with his tight offspin bowling, a combination which has boosted him to the third spot in the ICC's one-day allrounder rankings. "Bowling is natural for me, I don't really work very hard on it," Hafeez said. "Basically I am a batsman, I can understand the psyche of the batsmen.
"The confidence given by the management is very important, especially by the captain. Previously Shahid [Afridi] was using me very well and now Misbah [ul-Haq] - with whom I had played at the domestic level too. So in any situation, he trusts me and if required asks me to do the job for the team and it has really worked."
Misbah highlighted Hafeez's importance to the team, and praised the allrounder's contributions. "You can say he's one of the best allrounders because of the way he has performed over the last one-and-a-half years," Misbah said. "He's really doing well for Pakistan team in all formats, be it Twenty20s, one-dayers or even Tests. He can bat, bowl well, is good at fielding and is improving day by day. It's really a blessing to have a person like him in the team."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent