There was fresh scrutiny on Mohammad Hafeez’s bowling action on Wednesday when Ross Taylor appeared to publicly question its legality during the course of the first ODI between Pakistan and New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.
Taylor made the gesture at the end of Hafeez’s first over, when he seemed to look directly at the umpires – or his partner at the non-striker’s end Tom Latham – and mimicked delivering the ball with a bent arm. Whether or not it was an attempt to call attention to Hafeez’s action, it enraged the Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahm. That wasn’t the end of the episode as Sarfraz persisted with Hafeez, and kept exchanging comments with Taylor, looking none too happy with the New Zealand batsman.
The umpires Shozab Raza and Joel Wilson eventually got involved and had a chat with Taylor. As well as how it impacts how the officials view Hafeez’s action, Taylor could face the possibility of sanctions himself. They may not relate to dissent but there is a clause in the ICC rulebook that deals with players’ on-field behavior.
A similar incident had occurred in 2009 when Saeed Ajmal was called for a suspect action and he felt it had been the result of an opposition batsman – in that case, Australia’s Shane Watson – who had directed the umpire’s attention to the way he bowled his doosra.
That this one involves Hafeez makes it particularly uncomfortable for Pakistan. The ICC has ruled his action illegal no fewer than four times in his career; three of them in the last four years.
Hafeez was first reported almost 14 years ago during an ODI tri-series in Australia in 2005. Regulations concerning illegal actions were different back then and he soon returned. In 2014, his action was reported during the Champions League T20, and then again following a Test match against New Zealand later that year. He was suspended from bowling after results indicated the flex of his elbow was more than the allowed 15 degrees.
Hafeez finally got to bowl again in April 2015, but a month later, he was back under the umpires’ scanner. Since that constituted a second report in the space of two years – with the first one resulting in a suspension – the ICC put his offspin on ice for 12 months.
Hafeez returned to bowling after his ban, clearing a test of his action in 2016, but the issue cropped up again leading to his latest suspension in October 2017. He eventually received a clean chit from the ICC in April 2018 and now, after a late call-up to Pakistan’s squad for their ongoing home season, he has bowled 19 overs in one Test and six T20Is against Australia and New Zealand, without drawing any attention to his remodelled action before this. (ESPNCricinfo)