Hafeez admits struggle, but says selection justified
Pakistan allrounder Mohammad Hafeez has said he was satisfied with his recent ODI performances in Australia - although "it wasn't outstanding" - because he felt under pressure on two fronts: he was making a comeback to the team and it was his first series with a remodelled action.
Hafeez wasn't selected in the original ODI squad for the Australia tour but was called up a few days later because Azhar Ali got injured. He scored a match winning half-century in Melbourne to lead Pakistan to their only win on the tour, but finished with 123 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 72.
In the PSL that followed, Hafeez made only 153 runs at a strike rate of 99 in nine innings - 77 came in one game - during Peshawar Zalmi's run to the title. However, he was retained in the ODI squad and recalled to the T20I side for the upcoming tour of the Caribbean.
"My performance in Australia wasn't outstanding, but I felt it was okay," Hafeez said in Lahore, when asked if he had expected to be retained. "I was under pressure for two reasons - one because it was my comeback as a player, and secondly because it was my first series back as a bowler. Though I couldn't get wickets, I felt I bowled according to the situation and my economy was quite good, which helped the team.
"In the PSL, my role wasn't defined properly and my position in the batting order changed, but that is not an excuse. I did struggle and my performances weren't strong enough. But when selectors opt for a player, they look at the conditions and requirements in the team. I am happy they have given me the responsibility and trusted me.
"If you look at my numbers, I think I deserve to be in the Pakistan team. In the last two years, I think I have played 28 to 29 matches and averaged 38 in ODIs. I have always believed that a few matches, or one or two series, don't justify your talent. Good and bad days do come but when you are a proven player, you surely get more chances."
When asked about Pakistan players' reluctance to retire, Hafeez said he would not hang around if he felt he wasn't able to perform. "I will definitely think about [retirement] when my time comes. I am 36 right now. I believe that my performances and fitness are justifying my place for Pakistan. I will only play until I feel I can match the level of performances I expect of myself."
Hafeez reiterated his views about corruption, saying that guilty players should be banned for life. In 2015, he reportedly turned down an offer to play for Chittagong Vikings in the BPL because Mohammad Amir, who was returning from a five-year ban for spot-fixing, was on the team. Hafeez had also been reluctant to train with Amir but has played with the fast bowler since. Pakistan cricket recently suffered another blow when a corruption scandal hit the PSL. Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan and Nasir Jamshed were provisionally suspended by the PCB in relation to the case.
"Everyone can have their opinion but mine is strong," Hafeez said. "I have stood by it for all my life and it is a principled stance. It wasn't for or against any individual. The stance was simple: whoever hurts the reputation of Pakistan and is proven guilty shouldn't get that respect back. I am not a policy maker but what we are facing now is very painful.
"Whoever plays for Pakistan is responsible for upholding the respect that he gets on an individual level. And if someone tells me that it was a mistake, I don't consider it a mistake; it's a crime. So this thing coming up again is painful for me and for the whole country, so it is high time that a stern decision is made about players who have been proven guilty to set an example for others."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent