Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Harare, 2nd day September 11, 2013

The Professor's problem

Pakistan have a problem at the top of their order. Their experienced opener is struggling, and they are still having try-outs for the other spot
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If Mohammad Hafeez makes a trip to Lake Kariba after this series, he would fancy his chances of returning with a decent stash, considering that every time he has gone fishing recently, he's caught something. The edge.

Twice in three innings against Zimbabwe and four times out of six in South Africa, Hafeez has been caught behind the stumps, chasing deliveries he should have left alone. Even on a placid pitch at Harare Sports Club, Hafeez's uncertainty outside the off stump was exposed by the moving ball.

This time it took 32 deliveries against an attack that took some time to find its line - understandably so, because one half of the opening pair, Brian Vitori, had not played a Test in 19 months - but it happened nonetheless. Vitori pitched the ball up and moved it away so that Hafeez had to play, and the outside edge carried to Hamilton Masakadza at first slip.

Vitori would have seen Hafeez's doubt against previous deliveries. He had shouldered arms tentatively when Vitori first found movement and was beaten when he tried to defend on the back foot. Against another delivery, Hafeez was surprised by the lack of bounce and withdrew his bat too late. There was an edge but it fell short of first slip.

That was just before lunch and it must have got Vitori thinking. During the break, someone may have reminded him how Hafeez had been dismissed in the first Test. He had been caught in his crease by Tendai Chatara and pushed forward, only to be caught at second slip in the first innings.

Vitori and Chatara are no Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander but it may have been brought to their attention how the South African bowlers got the better of Hafeez six months ago. In five out of six innings, he edged - once onto his stumps - and the rest to be caught by the keeper or slips. The exception was when he played down the wrong line to one that moved across him and was trapped lbw. Steyn was responsible for four of those dismissals, moving the ball away from Hafeez every time.

With Vitori's natural angle taking the ball away from Hafeez, he could use that to his advantage. And all that is before considering the dry spell Hafeez is experiencing in the longer format.

Hafeez has scored only one hundred and one fifty in his last three series and both of them were in batsmen-friendly conditions. His 196 was at the SSC and was followed by a 52 in Pallekele. On anything livelier, he has struggled.

Those who have watched him for years are not surprised and point to a distinct lack of improvement in his Test cricket. Hafeez's highest score against a major team outside the subcontinent is 95 against England at The Oval in 2006. Four of his five hundreds have come in his home country, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. The exception was 119 against Zimbabwe two years ago in Bulawayo, on a surface that was as flat as the attack he was facing.

With no marked progression in ten years of playing Test cricket, questions over whether Hafeez should continue opening are valid, especially with a series against South Africa ahead. He averages only 17 against them, and though pitches in the UAE are likely to offer little to the quicks and opening is likely to be less challenging than it is in Africa, Steyn and co will not make life easy for Hafeez.

His value as a spinner aside, Pakistan may have to consider other options if they hope to present a strong resistance upfront against the world's top-ranked team. Taufeeq Umar would appear the leading contender because of his record against South Africa. In six matches he played against them, he scored two hundreds and four fifties and averaged 60.83. However, most of those runs were scored ten years ago and whether Taufeeq can summon similar resolve is the question.

Imran Farhat is another candidate, although his presence seems to be anything but palatable to many Pakistan fans. He also has decent numbers against South Africa, an average of 36.83 in six Tests with a century and two fifties. He played against them in the most recent series and appeared in control when he scored 30 and 43. Or they could revert to Nasir Jamshed, who opened in two Tests in South Africa and was dropped after not faring well.

Alternatively, Pakistan could gamble on a youngster in Ahmed Shehzad. Although he has not played Test cricket, his limited-overs form in Zimbabwe hinted at promise and ability. They would have to risk partnering a rookie with Khurram Manzoor, who impressed Dav Whatmore on his comeback but is still re-finding his feet in international cricket.

Manzoor took a step towards doing that today, by scoring the first half-century by a Pakistan opener in five Tests this year. His partner Hafeez, on the other hand, may want to get fishing out of his system before taking on South Africa.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mzm149 on September 11, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    In South Africa's tour of UAE, Hafeez should be tried at no. 6 in tests if the captain has to utilize his bowling. Third spinner will definitely be needed on those pitches and Hafeez is a pretty good spinner. But if Misbah is planning to give him just 2 or 3 overs in the entire match then there is no need to carry him. This will be helpful for Hafeez's batting as well because opening batsmen have the toughest job in the entire team as they have to deal with the new ball. Many good batsmen come down the order and they are quite successful. Examples are de Villiers, Bell, Clarke and Younus Khan. In test cricket every player gets a full chance to bat so opening the innings just to get maximum opportunities to bat is simply unacceptable.

  • on September 11, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    If TEAM PAKISTAN want to keep Hafeez in the test team because of his bowling then they should bat him at number 6. This may work for him as at the moment by continuously failing at the top of the order he is putting too much pressure on other batsmen. If West Indies can drop Gayle down the batting when not in form why cannot TEAM PAKISTAN think tank do the same with Hafeez. Personally I do not think he should be in the test team at all. I repeat test team should be (PCB selectors are you listening?): 1 & 2.Jamshed /Shehzad / possibly Khurram; 3. Azhar (VC); 4. Younus; 5. Misbah; 6. Umar; 7. Sarfraz; 8. Gul; 9. Wahab / Rehman / young promising fast or spin bowler (depending on the conditions / pitch); 10. Junaid; 11. Ajmal. In the reserve Shafiq, Amin and maybe one or two promising youngsters. It is possible in couple of years both Misbah and Yunus may retire and this will give opportunity to Shafiq and Amin. Also both Azhar and Amin should be encouraged to bowl.

  • ICCexpert.... on September 13, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    tiem to move on and drop Hafeez, Misbah players like Farhat for good. Include fresh talent and give them a chance to prove

  • Fineline on September 12, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    Its time to drop Hafeez from the tests and look for a new opener.Misbah and Younis always arrive in the situation when there are 2-3 wickets down for a low score which is due to Hafeez so its better to bring Taufeeq Umer back and if possible then look for a new opener for tests.

  • PakEditor on September 12, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    This is Pakistani life coming full circle for you. Hafeez was never an international cricket contender were it not for Misbah and their common association at Faisalabad. The languid Misbah nurtured and exalted him (needlessly) to a point that Hafeez became a direct threat to his own captaincy.

  • RaadQ on September 12, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    I'm sorry but Hafeez cannot be picked over Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Fawad Alam and others as a batsman alone. He is being picked as an "allrounder" but it is more to do with his seniority and being vice-captain (and T20 captain). As such, the least he can do is be less stubborn and move down the order where he play his shots when the ball isn't moving. That combined with his golden arm against left handers there is no reason why he shouldn't be legitimately picked. I think Taufeeq Umar should open with Azhar Ali, followed by Younis, Asad, Misbah and Hafeez. Misbah and Younis should be spaced out so others hopefully can benefit from their stability.

  • TheProfPak on September 12, 2013, 9:11 GMT

    There is no place of Mr. Professor in test team. I fail to understand how many matches Misbah/Dav need to understand this simple thing? Why on earth, they didn't give chance to Shan Masood (he was selected as an opener). Taufeeq Umar should return for SA series as well as Nasir Jamshed.

  • on September 12, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    Toufeeq umar has got more as well. He has done good in his return. In SL & UAE. he was unfit for SA series and then Dropped for this tour out of no where. Had scored a 200 vs SL in UAE just recently. Toufeeq should be continued as he was good in past year or 2.

    Hafeez no doubt a value player in shorter format but he should not be playing in tests. He is not bowling much in tests. if they are using him as bowling allrounder, Which they need vs SA in UAE then he should bat at no 6.

    Even in UAE, during that England series, broad & Anderson had good number of wickets. Pitches do support fast bowling early on. Hafeez can't open there.

    Ahmed may not be good for tests. He isnt good in odis so test is a far away option. Imran farhat also a failure. Best option is Toufeeq umar.

  • hassanazh on September 12, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    After reading this article and all comments, I perceived that limited word is used for Hafeez only, so he should limit himself to limited overs cricket and should not cross limits in unlimited overs game.

    I totally agree with this. I was about to bang my head on wall when I saw his name in the playing 11s but then I realized I'll only hurt myself not Hafeez so I stopped myself.

  • 1_234 on September 12, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    Again and again, return and re-return, old and old that is what selection committee is doing in recent history.

  • mzm149 on September 11, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    In South Africa's tour of UAE, Hafeez should be tried at no. 6 in tests if the captain has to utilize his bowling. Third spinner will definitely be needed on those pitches and Hafeez is a pretty good spinner. But if Misbah is planning to give him just 2 or 3 overs in the entire match then there is no need to carry him. This will be helpful for Hafeez's batting as well because opening batsmen have the toughest job in the entire team as they have to deal with the new ball. Many good batsmen come down the order and they are quite successful. Examples are de Villiers, Bell, Clarke and Younus Khan. In test cricket every player gets a full chance to bat so opening the innings just to get maximum opportunities to bat is simply unacceptable.

  • on September 11, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    If TEAM PAKISTAN want to keep Hafeez in the test team because of his bowling then they should bat him at number 6. This may work for him as at the moment by continuously failing at the top of the order he is putting too much pressure on other batsmen. If West Indies can drop Gayle down the batting when not in form why cannot TEAM PAKISTAN think tank do the same with Hafeez. Personally I do not think he should be in the test team at all. I repeat test team should be (PCB selectors are you listening?): 1 & 2.Jamshed /Shehzad / possibly Khurram; 3. Azhar (VC); 4. Younus; 5. Misbah; 6. Umar; 7. Sarfraz; 8. Gul; 9. Wahab / Rehman / young promising fast or spin bowler (depending on the conditions / pitch); 10. Junaid; 11. Ajmal. In the reserve Shafiq, Amin and maybe one or two promising youngsters. It is possible in couple of years both Misbah and Yunus may retire and this will give opportunity to Shafiq and Amin. Also both Azhar and Amin should be encouraged to bowl.

  • ICCexpert.... on September 13, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    tiem to move on and drop Hafeez, Misbah players like Farhat for good. Include fresh talent and give them a chance to prove

  • Fineline on September 12, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    Its time to drop Hafeez from the tests and look for a new opener.Misbah and Younis always arrive in the situation when there are 2-3 wickets down for a low score which is due to Hafeez so its better to bring Taufeeq Umer back and if possible then look for a new opener for tests.

  • PakEditor on September 12, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    This is Pakistani life coming full circle for you. Hafeez was never an international cricket contender were it not for Misbah and their common association at Faisalabad. The languid Misbah nurtured and exalted him (needlessly) to a point that Hafeez became a direct threat to his own captaincy.

  • RaadQ on September 12, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    I'm sorry but Hafeez cannot be picked over Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Fawad Alam and others as a batsman alone. He is being picked as an "allrounder" but it is more to do with his seniority and being vice-captain (and T20 captain). As such, the least he can do is be less stubborn and move down the order where he play his shots when the ball isn't moving. That combined with his golden arm against left handers there is no reason why he shouldn't be legitimately picked. I think Taufeeq Umar should open with Azhar Ali, followed by Younis, Asad, Misbah and Hafeez. Misbah and Younis should be spaced out so others hopefully can benefit from their stability.

  • TheProfPak on September 12, 2013, 9:11 GMT

    There is no place of Mr. Professor in test team. I fail to understand how many matches Misbah/Dav need to understand this simple thing? Why on earth, they didn't give chance to Shan Masood (he was selected as an opener). Taufeeq Umar should return for SA series as well as Nasir Jamshed.

  • on September 12, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    Toufeeq umar has got more as well. He has done good in his return. In SL & UAE. he was unfit for SA series and then Dropped for this tour out of no where. Had scored a 200 vs SL in UAE just recently. Toufeeq should be continued as he was good in past year or 2.

    Hafeez no doubt a value player in shorter format but he should not be playing in tests. He is not bowling much in tests. if they are using him as bowling allrounder, Which they need vs SA in UAE then he should bat at no 6.

    Even in UAE, during that England series, broad & Anderson had good number of wickets. Pitches do support fast bowling early on. Hafeez can't open there.

    Ahmed may not be good for tests. He isnt good in odis so test is a far away option. Imran farhat also a failure. Best option is Toufeeq umar.

  • hassanazh on September 12, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    After reading this article and all comments, I perceived that limited word is used for Hafeez only, so he should limit himself to limited overs cricket and should not cross limits in unlimited overs game.

    I totally agree with this. I was about to bang my head on wall when I saw his name in the playing 11s but then I realized I'll only hurt myself not Hafeez so I stopped myself.

  • 1_234 on September 12, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    Again and again, return and re-return, old and old that is what selection committee is doing in recent history.

  • Anwaruzz on September 12, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    The names bandied around for PAK batting line up goes to show how far they have fallen down in Cricket. Except for Younis and Misbah, no other name gives a supporter any confidence, Akmal brothers were good but seems to have lost it too. Pakistan is still holding it's rank only due to it's excellent bowling talents

  • Anwaruzz on September 12, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Hafiz as no.6 will not be much of use. As No.6 or No.7 will have to face the second new ball. Hafiz can be taken as 3rd spinner sans one less fast bowler and also be used as an extended tail of batting line up. Jamshed should have been given the opportunity to gain some experience at ZIM for the SA series.

  • on September 12, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Our team for SAF Should be Afridi/shehzad/azhar/younis/misbah/umar/Hafeez/Ajmal/Wahab/Junaid/Irfan

  • dmqi on September 12, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    May God have mercy on Pak selectors. Can they see how many people are saying Hafiz has no place in the test team but the selection committee is grooming him to be the next captain. Well, this is Pakistan, and anything is possible there. PCB can suggest a school teaching job for him justifying his professor title along with the T20 captaincy to make him happy.

  • Gurudumu on September 12, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    Hafeez's continual selection in Tests for Pakistan is one of the mysteries of all time! He has failed again, again and again yet the selectors persist with him.. duh. Who's his benefactor who is protecting him and has so much clout in team selection? Woe betide Pakistan if Hafeez becomes captain of their Test team - it would be the beginning of the end for Pakistan cricket.

  • ada123 on September 12, 2013, 3:48 GMT

    I am sorry but when you suggest Imran Farhat as an option in the team, you lose all possible credibility. That is because no man, sane or otherwise, would pose such an absurd and ludicrous selection.

  • Zahidsaltin on September 12, 2013, 0:34 GMT

    I think each and every fan of Pakistan is punching their heads in anger at all our selection committees which one after one come to fulfil their own agenda. Taufiq is surely the best opner technic wise and on average too but You will see Manzoor now playing at least for 2 years as he has finally scored a halph century. Hafeez has been burdon in tests for a decade and then we have Faisal sitting and waiting to play with his own decade of failures.

  • Morfi on September 11, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    Taufiq has doone no wrong and it is unfair to compare him with Farhat. Nasir Jamshaid and Taufiq shd open the innings in tests with umar akmal in at no. 6 as well. Maybe that means taking out adnan which wd not be fair but still... Otherwise we shd allow taufiq to open with azhar ali and move everyone up one slot. Umar gul shd come back w junaid as the two pacers. Unless pakistan find a genuine allrounder for tests this is the team combination that works. Hafeex shd limit himself to limited overs....

  • on September 11, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    Pakistan don't need a failed Professor, Pakistan may need to select a proper test player names don't work anymore only the performance matters.

  • Desihungama on September 11, 2013, 23:01 GMT

    Thank you Firdouse for the lovely write up. It's about time Professor makes way for an Assistant. I am afraid by sticking to his opening spot in Tests, he might lose his place in the shorter format too. Looks like he's in good books of Misbah but he is failing to understand it's Pakistan Cricket and things change before you even know it. It will be wise for him to come 6 down in 2nd innings.

  • hamza1982 on September 11, 2013, 22:57 GMT

    Well thank god someone is politely stating the obvious that this guy is no good at the test level. Hafeez should really only play t20s. Hes been v poor in ODIs aswell. Our test team for SAF should be Jamshed, Taufeeq, Azhar, Younis, Misbah, Harris, Umar wk, Wahab, Ajmal, Junaid, Irfan.

  • on September 11, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    If India can drop a batsman like sehwag due to a poor run and his technique being badly exposed, why cannot hafeez cannot be dropped and then made to work hard on the flaws in his technique. I think he wants to be captain of the team once Misbah retires. But at the moment he cannot justify his place in the test squad.

  • on September 11, 2013, 22:49 GMT

    A bit harsh. Steyn and Philander make monkeys of most batsmen in SA. Sure his test average may be lower than one would expect from his talent but he has only played 33 tests and despite that still averages a respectable 34, in spite of a poor record against SA. Add in his bowling contribution and his senior statemen role and that average is closer to if not over 40. Despite all you've said, most teams in the world still recognise him as a threat in the team. The failure of the younger pakistani batsmen to step up to the plate is the real problem in the side. Too much dependence on Misbah,Younis and Hafeez. Strangely pakistani supporters seem to despise those the most.

  • Chaudry_Cricket on September 11, 2013, 22:34 GMT

    The problem is that the team managment have backed Hafeez up and do not have it in them to drop Hafeez wheter it is Misbah or Whatmore they seem to have this mindset that Hafeez is the 'SAVIOUR' of Pakistan.

    Now coming to Hafeez himself he has said in a press conference or interview (article on Espncricinfo) where he say's that there is 'NOTHING WRONG WITH MY TECHNIQUE' then how can we expect him to improve with this sort of mindset. He should bat at no 6 in odi and should be dropped from test forever.

    Now our openers in test cricket should be - Azhar Ali, Khurram Manzoor and Taufeeq Umar we should persist with them for at least 4 test series. The reason I think Azhar should be promoted is because with him at the top we know that one end is secure and Azhar has what most Pakistani batsman lack patience. He will see of the tough sessions. Taufeeq should never have been dropped. If Manzoor is

  • on September 11, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    Hafeez and Adnan Akmal have no place in the test team. Hafeez has failed repeatedly and everyone but the selectors see that he is not fit to be a test player. Adnan looks like a nice guy but i am sorry he is a club cricketer at best. Serious technical flaws in his technique as a keeper. I think Moin Khan of all the people should see that and make amends. I like Vaseem Siddiqi's team selection. That makes the most sense to me.

  • avmd on September 11, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    This totally unfair, if Hafeez could not prove himself a test class opener at almost 33, how long he will keep blocking another younger player to be tired. Selection committee is to be blamed for this. I have no problem if he is given a longer run in T20 and play as bowling allrounder in ODI, but absolutely has no place in tests.

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    Hafeez will still be batting as an opener against SA no matter what happened to the results of the series. This is very much a typical approach among all Pakistani Players that they don't ever allow any other man on their place even if they are injured. Hafeez and Co. knows it very well that there are better prospects sitting on the bench and if Hafeez loses his place as an opener, he will not be included in the team. So he might ruined his career either by playing as an opener and getting out edge behind the wicket OR will be permanently excluded from the team after so many poor performances.

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:26 GMT

    Open With Taufiq and Khurram,Or let Younus or Adnan Akmal do it..! hafeez isnt a test material but since we cant risk opening slot by calling some1 who hasnt played recently in the team,Hafeez will stay. His offies will be helpful against Duming And Smith. But Taufiq needs to be WIth team.!

  • RANA1610 on September 11, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    How he is called Professor, whose run rate has been 11.4 for last three years?

  • GermanPlayer on September 11, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    I am amazed how much time Pakistan administrators need to realize that most of their players, hafeez in particular, lack consistency. On top of that, he is made the captain which baffles me!

  • Imranzia on September 11, 2013, 18:21 GMT

    Azhar Ali should open. Younis 3, Asad 4, Misbah 5. Umar Akmal / Umar Amin 6 and hafeez deserves to be dropped

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:01 GMT

    He isn't international material when it comes to batting. End of discussion.

  • Mel-waas on September 11, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    Thanks Firdose, you are very spot on. I am afraid the 'professor' may not be a Test Opener material after all. Although he may still prove to be a useful limited overs all rounder.

  • sidzy on September 11, 2013, 17:41 GMT

    Well he has been extra baggage now for a year & he hasn't even got the talent of hussain....

  • on September 11, 2013, 17:33 GMT

    Typical Pakistan, Hafeez has continued to get chances throughout his career and he has never really produced as a batsman, particularly in Test cricket. However you look at someone as established as Younis who got dropped from the ODI team and who seems to be warranting his place in the eyes of the selectors every time he bats. The Pakistani board, selectors and their favoritism and neglect of certain players is the main problem with Pakistani cricket

  • on September 11, 2013, 17:33 GMT

    Typical Pakistan, Hafeez has continued to get chances throughout his career and he has never really produced as a batsman, particularly in Test cricket. However you look at someone as established as Younis who got dropped from the ODI team and who seems to be warranting his place in the eyes of the selectors every time he bats. The Pakistani board, selectors and their favoritism and neglect of certain players is the main problem with Pakistani cricket

  • sidzy on September 11, 2013, 17:41 GMT

    Well he has been extra baggage now for a year & he hasn't even got the talent of hussain....

  • Mel-waas on September 11, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    Thanks Firdose, you are very spot on. I am afraid the 'professor' may not be a Test Opener material after all. Although he may still prove to be a useful limited overs all rounder.

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:01 GMT

    He isn't international material when it comes to batting. End of discussion.

  • Imranzia on September 11, 2013, 18:21 GMT

    Azhar Ali should open. Younis 3, Asad 4, Misbah 5. Umar Akmal / Umar Amin 6 and hafeez deserves to be dropped

  • GermanPlayer on September 11, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    I am amazed how much time Pakistan administrators need to realize that most of their players, hafeez in particular, lack consistency. On top of that, he is made the captain which baffles me!

  • RANA1610 on September 11, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    How he is called Professor, whose run rate has been 11.4 for last three years?

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:26 GMT

    Open With Taufiq and Khurram,Or let Younus or Adnan Akmal do it..! hafeez isnt a test material but since we cant risk opening slot by calling some1 who hasnt played recently in the team,Hafeez will stay. His offies will be helpful against Duming And Smith. But Taufiq needs to be WIth team.!

  • on September 11, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    Hafeez will still be batting as an opener against SA no matter what happened to the results of the series. This is very much a typical approach among all Pakistani Players that they don't ever allow any other man on their place even if they are injured. Hafeez and Co. knows it very well that there are better prospects sitting on the bench and if Hafeez loses his place as an opener, he will not be included in the team. So he might ruined his career either by playing as an opener and getting out edge behind the wicket OR will be permanently excluded from the team after so many poor performances.

  • avmd on September 11, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    This totally unfair, if Hafeez could not prove himself a test class opener at almost 33, how long he will keep blocking another younger player to be tired. Selection committee is to be blamed for this. I have no problem if he is given a longer run in T20 and play as bowling allrounder in ODI, but absolutely has no place in tests.