Mohammad Hafeez has no problems with Pakistan being known as “unpredictable,” saying he “loves” the tag that is so often applied to the team.
The Pakistan all-rounder is set to feature in a virtual Champions Trophy quarter-final against Sri Lanka when the two sides meet for the concluding Group B match in Cardiff on Monday. Whichever team wins will advance into the semi-finals of an event featuring the world’s top eight one-day international teams, with the losers eliminated from the ‘mini World Cup.’
The cliché that you can never be sure which Pakistan team will turn up is one the current side have embraced at this tournament. Their campaign started with a miserable 124-run thrashing by rivals and title-holders India, which saw Pakistan utterly outplayed in all aspects of the game to the dismay of their fans at a packed Edgbaston. But just three days later they went from zeroes to heroes when they returned to the Birmingham ground to beat South Africa, the world’s top-ranked ODI side by 19 runs on Duckworth/Lewis.
Once again there was much talk of the “unpredictable Pakistan.”
But Hafeez, a veteran of 187 ODIs, told reporters in Cardiff on Sunday: “To be honest, I’m always a fan of that tag, that we’re an unpredictable team. As a team, we’re always very aggressive. Yes, we had some of the days which were not nice, and I think the first game was one of those where we all tried our level-best but things didn’t work for us. And the next game, like it was a totally different team effort. As a team, we are always like that, and I love that tag always.”
Pakistan’s unrivaled ability to go from the simply awful to the sublime has long been a feature of their play. As far as Hafeez is concerned, the team’s reputation dates back to Pakistan’s remarkable 1992 World Cup campaign.
They were bowled out for just 74 by England in a group match in Adelaide before rain spared Pakistan a defeat that would have stopped them getting to the semi-finals. As it was, under the inspiring captaincy of legendary all-rounder Imran Khan, who promised his team would “fight like cornered tigers,” Pakistan made it all the way to the final where, with left-arm fast bowler Wasim Akram in brilliant form, they beat England by 22 runs in Melbourne.
It remains the only time Pakistan have won the World Cup and Hafeez said that was where they picked up the “unpredictable” tag. “If you see the history of Pakistan cricket from there till now, we’re always unpredictable,” he said. “We have the talent, but still you never know when it comes. That’s something the opposition always think about. They never take us lightly.”
Hafeez believes the winner takes all nature of Monday’s match will suit Pakistan. “The situation in front of us is very clear—we have to win the game, everything else is just irrelevant,” he said.
This year has seen Hafeez again contributing with ball as well as bat, having remodeled his action after a period of suspension for an illegal delivery. “I was missing that part of the game because that was something [bowling] that I really wanted to do whenever I played cricket,” he explained. “It’s more enjoyable for myself and also it’s working for the team. That is always great.”