Pak v Ban T20Is: Is picking Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez a regressive step?
Pakistan have picked 39-year-old Mohammad Hafeez and 37-year-old Shoaib Malik in their T20I squad for the home series against Bangladesh, which has led to some pertinent questions.
Pakistan's selection panel led by head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq decided to overhaul the Pakistan T20I squad following 8 losses in their last 9 T20I games. Apart from dropping seven players, namely namely Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Amir, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, who were part of their last T20I series against Australia, Pakistan have picked three uncapped players in Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt and Haris Rauf.
What has attracted the most attention is the inclusion of Mohammad Hafeez, who has retired from Test cricket and Shoaib Malik, who bid goodbye to ODI Cricket after the World Cup. Both of them are in the last stretch of their professional cricketing career, which is why their inclusion has led to some pertinent questions.
Mohammad Hafeez has played a handful of T20 World Cups for Pakistan and also captained the team in the 2012 edition. From 24 T20 World Cup matches, he has scored 426 runs at an average of a tick over 20 and an underwhelming strike rate of 105.18.
Hafeez has not played quality cricket in a while now. He last featured in the Qatar T10 league on the back of an appearance in the Abu Dhabi T10 League. The last T20I he played was way back in November 2018 against New Zealand in Dubai.
His figures in T20 international cricket are not great either. Hafeez has scored 1908 runs from 89 matches at an average of under 25 and a strike rate of 116.12. In domestic T20 games, his average remains similar while his strike rate is at 120.86.
That could still have been acceptable had Hafeez been bowling well, but after sanctions from the ICC and with a tweaked action, his effectivity with the ball is not nearly as much as it used to be. This is why his T20I bowling average of 22.70 and 54 scalps from 89 matches do not stand for much currently.
At 37, Shoaib Malik is one of the most experienced batsman around and has a superior record to most of his peers in the Pakistan cricket team. Talking about the T20 World Cups, out of 28 matches he has scored 569 runs at an average of 33.47 and a strike rate of over 120.
His striking is still not at par with the best players in the world but the fact that he plays in the middle order and can provide some solidity still go in his favour.
As opposed to Hafeez, who has not played a lot of quality cricket in recent times, Shoaib Malik featured for Rajshahi Royals in the Bangladesh Premier League 2019-20 throughout the season and did a find job for them. Although BPL is not the fiercest competition you will get anywhere around the world, it is still a decent level of cricket.
Malik started off quite well and was among the leading run-scorers in the first leg of the tournament. However, he did not have a great middle phase. He bounced back well to end among the top 5 run-scorers of the league with 455 runs from 15 games at an average of 37.91 and a strike rate of 130. Malik possibly did enough to attract the attention of the selectors with the best of 87.
Malik also bowled quite a bit with decent returns and also managed to pick a few wickets. He played his last T20I against South Africa in February 2019.
While announcing the squad, Misbah-ul-Haq said: "We tried our alternate combinations in the series against Sri Lanka and Australia, and obviously, these didn't work the way we had expected. Hafeez and Shoaib bring a total of 200 T20Is between them and if you mix these with the other youngsters we have in the side, then I think it becomes a good blend of experience and youth.
"The matches against Bangladesh are part of our preparation, finding the right combination and building for the two major tournaments. The return of Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Shaheen Afridi gives us the experience."
Whether or not Hafeez and Malik will be able to arrest Pakistan's downslide, only time will tell. But, going back to two players who are already past their prime in a World Cup year is a desperate and not the most-forward looking move that the team could have made.
Pakistan T20I Squad: Babar Azam (c), Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir
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