Hafeez upbeat ahead of New Zealand tour despite 'mental stress' of bubble

Pakistan all-rounder is hoping to continue his good form against Kiwis

Hafeez upbeat ahead of New Zealand tour despite 'mental stress' of bubble PHOTO: Reuters

Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez is optimistic about upcoming tour of New Zealand despite the mental stress of a bio-secure bubble.

While talking to Cricket Pakistan in an exclusive interview, Hafeez opened up about the change in cricket’s dynamics due to Covid-19 pandemic.

“Playing cricket again is a good thing but the mental stress of a bio-secure bubble is extremely high because I have not been able to give adequate time to my family. The same goes with New Zealand tour but I think we can get back to normal life after spending 14-day quarantine period which will help the team,” said Hafeez. “I have always enjoyed touring New Zealand because of my performance and hopefully it will be the same this time as well.”

The former Pakistan captain also shed light on the reasons behind his good run of form in the recent past.

“My performance in the past two or three years has been because of the change in my mindset and work ethics. I don’t worry too much about my technique as it can’t be changed at this point of my career. Also, I have shifted my focus towards power-hitting and game plans along with maintaining my fitness,” he said.

The Lahore Qalandars’ player also spoke about his team reaching the final of the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) season five.

“Reaching the [PSL] final was a big achievement but on the day we played badly and were not able to execute our skills,” he said. “I think we misread the pitch, which Aaqib [Javed] bhai also admitted, as it would have been better if he had decided to bowl first after winning the toss.”

“I think Karachi Kings had the hunger to win the final especially because of the death of Dean Jones. They were emotionally very attached with the tournament,” he added.

He also took a dig at Pakistan’s former cricketer and renowned commentator Ramiz Raja after the latter urged him to take retirement from international cricket.

“I acknowledge Ramiz [Raja] bhai’s services for Pakistan cricket as a player. Although, I respect Ramiz bhai’s opinion but I have reservations over his cricketing sense and game awareness. If you talk to my 12-year-old son, even his game awareness is better than Ramiz bhai,” he said. “If Ramiz bhai wants to continue saying such things for promoting his YouTube channel, then I can’t stop with but I will continue playing for Pakistan as long as I’m fit and performing.”

“I want to play the next T20 World Cup as well but only if I’m adding value to the side,” he added.

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The 40-year-old also spoke about his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding changed in Pakistan’s domestic cricket.

“Whenever we talked with the PCB on the changes in domestic cricket, we were told that the decision was taken by the Patron-in-Chief Imran Khan. So we decided to convey our reservations to the Prime Minister so that he knows the ground reality. 70 per cent are of cricketers are suffering due to the new domestic cricket structure and they have no alternate opportunities,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that the authorities will understand the plight of players so that the new generation does not leave cricket because of lack of opportunities and financial help,” he added.

Hafeez also talked about preferring Pakistan team over Lanka Premier League (LPL) despite millions of rupees on offer.

“Playing for Pakistan has always been my priority and ultimate satisfaction. This is not the first time that I have refused to play in leagues,” he said. “As far as the domestic contract is concerned, I believe that it would have been more beneficial for other local deserving players.” 

He also believes that Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam has the ability to shoulder this massive responsibility.

“Babar Azam’s work ethics are really strong so I don’t think the burden of captaincy will affect his batting. I also think that a top performer leading the side helps the team as the captain’s own place in the side is secured. It will also help Babar in decision making and earning the respect of other players,” he concluded.