The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Sunday announced Pakistan’s squad against South Africa for the upcoming three-match T20I series. While many domestic performers were happy to see their names on the list, everyone was wondering why all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was not on it.

While the new chief selector Muhammad Wasim refrained from using typical excuses like age, bad form or that there is someone better than Hafeez in the squad, he did present an interesting reason behind Hafeez’s exclusion from the squad.

In a press conference, Wasim said that Hafeez is playing the T10 league happening in Dubai and will not be able to return to Pakistan to join the bio-secure bubble on time.

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“Unfortunately, the scenario is such that every player has to join the bio-bubble on February 3, and if a player can’t do so, it means he is unavailable,” said Wasim during the conference.

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Talking about Hafeez, he added: “Same was the case with Mohammad Hafeez. He was not available for the bio-secure bubble, that’s why he was excluded. There’s no question on his performance.” 

Furthermore, according to a report in The News, a PCB official had revealed that just before the first T20 against New Zealand on December 18, Hafeez through an email had communicated to the board that he would not be in a position to participate in the three-match home series against South Africa due to his prior commitment with the T10 league in the UAE.

“We have our limitations. Though we wanted to include Hafeez for the series he was adamant to join only on February 5 after playing his last T10 League match on February 4. Since he would be travelling back to Pakistan and in between, he would be out of the bubble for almost a day and rejoining others could be a risky affair. The PCB on the other hand cannot go against the MoU so we have to stick to the agreement,” the official had said.

As per details, the PCB and Cricket South Africa have signed an MoU through which all the selected players for the T20 series will have to join the bubble on or before February 3.

The official added that Wasim talked to Hafeez on Saturday in an effort to convince him to join the bubble in time.

“He was not ready for that as he said he could only join the bubble on February 5. That is the reason Hafeez has been left out of the T20 series,” stated the official further.

The official also added that the PCB comprehended the situation well in time and that was why it had approached Hafeez in December.

“Hafeez’s email came after PCB’s cricket operation department approached him to clarify his position. Hafeez clearly mentioned his inability to make himself available for the series,” said the official.

Meanwhile, on January 20, Hafeez in a statement had said: “I’m fully available for the T20I series [against South Africa] as my priority is always playing for Pakistan. I was also given NOC for T10 League because it would not clash with Pakistan’s international commitments. I will also comply with all the bio-secure bubble requirements.”

Soon after the squad was announced, Hafeez took to Twitter to express his disappointment over not being selected for the team.

Later, in a virtual presser, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has said that Hafeez is an important player for the team, but in certain situations, you are unable to do anything, adding that bubble date and protocols were decided by the medical panel.

“As a coach, we will miss him but this is the opportunity for someone else to step up,” added Misbah.

Taking a look at Hafeez’ performance in T20Is, he has four fifties to his name in the past year. The first he scored against Bangladesh in Lahore (67 not out), the second he scored against England in England (69 not out), the third came against England again in the very next T20 (an unbeaten 89), and the last one was a score of 99 not out against New Zealand recently.

Apart from the fifties, he has been scoring with the average of at least 35 plus in T20Is in the past couple of years and there are no prizes for guessing that he has been the best with the willow for Pakistan.

Hafeez’s inclusion in the team was the need of the hour and even senior cricket journalist, Aalia Rasheed is unable to understand the decision. In a tweet, Rasheed wrote: “Hafeez is the requirement for Pakistan.”

“Why did you grant him NOC when you knew the final is on February 6,” she asked the board. “If a pillar player joins [the squad] after one day then what’s the issue in it? MOU is already in your hand.”

If Hafeez has sent an email to board with his demand, the PCB should share it with media and if there isn’t any email, then this puts a big question mark on the credibility of management. Nonetheless, the truth is bound to come out sooner or later.

Former cricketer and commentator, Ramiz Raja has slammed Hafeez, calling him ‘selfish’, he said, “International teams are now coming to Pakistan so it is imperative that everyone religiously follows Covid-19 protocols. Among those playing in T10 League, Asif Ali is coming but not Mohammad Hafeez because he doesn’t want to end his contract. This shows the level of thinking because, considering the situation, we should be prepared to follow the necessary protocols even if there are last-minute changes.”

He further opined, “If you look at Haris Rauf, he left Big Bash League to join Pakistan’s Test squad which shows what his priority is. If Pakistan is your priority then you are headed in the right direction. If you want to serve the leagues at the cost of selection for the Pakistan team, then you are certainly not on the right path. One should think about Pakistan instead of being selfish because nobody will back you.”

Meanwhile, the current T20 squad includes – Babar Azam (c), Aamer Yamin, Amad Butt, Asif Ali, Danish Aziz, Faheem Ashraf, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, M Hasnain, M Nawaz, M Rizwan, Sarfaraz, Shaheen Afridi, Usman Qadir, Zafar Gohar and Zahid Mehmood.

The squad along with the officials will enter the bio-secure bubble from February 3 while the players, taking part in the Test series, will join the bubble at the end of the second Test, which starts in Rawalpindi from February 4.

The three-match T20I series will commence from February 11 at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore.