Mohammad Hafeez has announced his retirement from international cricket, ending a Pakistan career spanning more than 18 years.
"Today I want to officially retire from the beautiful journey I started 18 years ago with Pakistan cricket," Hafeez said while announcing his retirement at a press conference in Lahore. "I represented Pakistan with great pride, and whatever I have played throughout my 18 years, I played with dignity. And whether it's on the field or off the field, I tried to raise Pakistan's flag high. I am very happy and satisfied with my career and achievements, which were all for Pakistan. So this is it for me."
Hafeez, 41, recently signed with Lahore Qalandars for the upcoming edition of the PSL and confirmed that he would continue to be available for franchise teams around the world "as long as I am fit and can contribute with performances".
But, after being dropped from the T20I side in 2018, he was recalled in 2020 for the home series against Bangladesh, and ended the year with a remarkable run: he was the leading run-getter in the format that year, scoring at an average of 83 and a strike rate of 152. He also ended the year as the overall sixth-highest run-scorer across all T20s, with the third-highest average and the third-best strike rate.
While he had initially announced that the 2020 T20 World Cup would be his final assignment for Pakistan, the tournament was pushed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Hafeez ended up extending his time with Pakistan.
"The decision is what my heart told me and not driven by any critics. For me, my critics had already started [criticising] since 2003 and people thought I wasn't a good player. I didn't want to turn my beautiful, positive journey into a negative one, that's why I am here, where I started my international cricket, and [am] ending it here."
"When you have a professional career as long as mine, you're bound to have your share of highs and lows, and it was no different for me," he said. "Results apart, I can say with conviction that I had more highs than lows, since I had the privilege of playing with and against some of the finest exponents of the bat and the ball of my era.
"While cricket has been a great learning school for me, this great sport has provided me opportunities to visit various countries, explore their cultures and make friends. These are lifelong memories, which I will cherish every day. I want to thank my fans for standing beside me understanding my lean patch, cherishing my success."
Ramiz Raja, the PCB chairman, was one of the people who had asked Hafeez and Malik to "retire gracefully".
Asked if his decision was dictated by the PCB, Hafeez said, "The decision is what my heart told me and not driven by any critics. For me, my critics had already started [criticising] since 2003 and people thought I wasn't a good player. I do respect their opinion and I have always respected them. I by no means wanted to turn my beautiful, positive journey into a negative one, that's why I am here, at the PCB [office, at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium], where I started my international cricket. And [am] ending it here."
Last year, Hafeez was on a collision course with the PCB because of his central contact. He rejected a Category C contract, stating he was unhappy at being offered the lowest grade. He has since played domestic cricket without a contract as he wanted to stay on as a freelancer.
He played 55 Tests, 218 ODIs and 119 T20Is, amassing 12,780 runs across formats, and finished with 32 Player-of-the-Match awards, the fourth-highest among Pakistan players in all international cricket, with only Shahid Afridi (43), Wasim Akram (39) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (33) above him. Hafeez also earned nine Player-of-the-Series awards across formats.
He is the only Pakistan player to have played in all but one T20 World Cup so far - incidentally, the one they ended up winning in 2009 - and holds the Pakistan record for most T20 World Cup appearances. As captain, Hafeez led Pakistan to the 2012 World T20 semi-final, but was also the captain when they crashed out in the group stage in the 2014 edition, the first time until then that they had failed to progress to the semi-finals of the tournament. Hafeez's overall T20I record as captain stands at 18 wins - one via a one-over eliminator - and 11 losses from 29 matches.