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‘Shocking to me’ – Hafeez claims Babar and management told Pakistan trainer fitness was not priority for players

Mohammad Hafeez
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Shortly after being sacked as the men’s team director, Mohammad Hafeez criticised the Pakistan team management on a television show.

The PCB appointed Mohammad Hafeez as the director of the men’s team as they changed the “portfolio of the Pakistan coaching staff” on November 15, 2023.

During Hafeez’s stint, Pakistan lost 0-3 in the Tests in Australia under Shan Masood and 1-4 in the T20Is in New Zealand under Shaheen Shah Afridi. Masood and Shaheen had replaced Babar Azam as captains as part of PCB’s overhaul of the process.

On February 15, 2024, exactly three months after his appointment, the PCB sacked Hafeez from his role, wishing him “good luck for future endeavours”. On February 16, Hafeez tweeted that he would “reveal all the cricketing and other amateur non cricketing facts which ensue bad performances” in Pakistan cricket.

Less than a week after his sacking, Hafeez heavily criticised the Pakistan team management on the TV show The Pavilion. “When we reached Australia, I urged all the players to focus on their fitness,” he said.

“I asked the trainer what the current fitness standards of the players were. He made a shocking statement. He said, ‘six months ago, the team director, head coach and captain told me fitness is not the priority at the moment, and I need not check the fitness of these players – let them play the cricket they wanted to.

“When I observed them after six months, their fat level, which plays an important role in international cricket [was measured]. When the skin-fold measure was done, the results showed that all our Test cricketers had their levels 1.5 to 1.75 times above the extended standard. Too high.”

The body fat level, as Hafeez described, is “all the fat you have in your body, the food you intake”. The skin fold is used to measure that.

“After that, in the 2km trial to check your stamina check, some of the players couldn’t finish the run,” Hafeez continued. “That was shocking to me, when I got to know the reason that six months ago, a decision was taken that disregarded all of these [fitness] criteria.

“The captain [Babar] was involved,” confirmed Wasim Akram, also present in the show. “Cricket director [Mickey Arthur], coach [Grant] Bradburn too.”

“How can you disregard fitness at the international level?” asked Hafeez. “When you do this, the results will be like this only.”

“When we won the Champions Trophy [2017], a player was sent back for failing to pass the fitness test,” added former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, referring to Umar Akmal, who had to return home from England after failing the fitness test twice.

“At that time, there was a lot of importance on fitness. After that, the culture was such … When we won the Test in Lord’s, everyone said we all looked so good. Genuinely, it was my personal best fitness.”

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