He expects Fakhar to come out trumps in his potential match-up against in-form Zampa
Hayden pointed out that Fakhar has contributed in the hotspots in the outfield and that he’s not too far away from hitting form with the bat.
“Fakhar is a very interesting personality and character,” Hayden said. “The longer that I spend time with him, the more that I really enjoy his personality and character. The fact that he was in the navy for seven years gives you a pretty strong indication of his ability to be able to fight and fight hard. Not only from a batting perspective, the contribution within a T20 set-up is that you have to be as a general policy a two-dimensional player.
“And I think Fakhar has been the standout outfielder for our team as well. He’s saved literally five-ten runs every game and five-ten runs within a T20 concept and batting line-up, include your runs maybe 20s and 30s here and there means overall he’s just been such an important part of the side.”
Fakhar was originally just a reserve member in Pakistan’s T20 World Cup squad, but was later promoted to the main squad at the expense of Khushdil Shah. Hayden reckoned Fakhar’s experience and left-handedness at No. 3 could help Pakistan counter Adam Zampa.
The Australia legspinner is currently the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the competition, with 11 strikes in five matches at an average of 9.90 and economy rate of 5.73. Fakhar and Zampa, however, have never faced each other in T20 cricket before.
“Don’t be surprised if you see something incredibly special from him tomorrow (Thursday) as well because he’s smashing the ball in the nets,” Hayden said of Fakhar. “And in particular, if you look at the potential match-up against Adam Zampa, who has been the leading wicket-taker [for Australia] in the ICC T20 World Cup…I think that is a fantastic target and opportunity for Fakhar to really dominate and position Pakistan in a strong, competitive state.
“Already he’s contributed nicely, and yet to start like some of the others. That’s the great benefit of having an in-form batting line-up and bear in mind, unlike Test cricket, T20 cricket is also just about impact.
“We’ve seen Asif [Ali] come in and smash 24 runs against New Zealand to win you a game. If you look at the overall stats, you go: ‘Well is he impressive in this tournament or not’? But that’s not T20 cricket. Making [an] impact is significant and Fakhar is certainly one of those that can do that tomorrow.”
Australia’s decision to tour Pakistan a ‘wonderful announcement’
“Yes, it [T20 World Cup] is an extremely important tournament for Pakistan, as it is for every membership nation,” Hayden said. “We face Australia tomorrow, a country that is incredibly proud to set high standards in terms of delivery on trophy for its country in World Cups and this is one where that has never got into that trophy cabinet. So, a lot of high-stake matches ahead of us now.
“From a Pakistan cricket point of view, I feel as a nation that loves cricket as much as what it does and focused so heavily on cricket, and also have tournaments, including ones I was a part of, cancelled for numerous reasons. It’s never more important… the awareness has heightened that out of this great nation, we’ve got a squad of players here that are ready to perform and ready to take on not only the semi-finals, but should we get beyond that to the finals… very important for Pakistan cricket.
“A wonderful announcement as well in the last few days about Australia touring Pakistan in February, something that hasn’t been done for, I think, 28  years now. I know that from an Australian cricket point of view, that is not only a significant moment for Australian cricket, but also for Pakistan cricket.”
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo