Former captain Aamer Sohail had a few words of advice for the Pakistan Cricket Board on Monday – like he usually does. He said the newly appointed T20 captain Sarfraz Ahmed should not be rushed into leading Pakistan in all three formats.
“I cannot understand why Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is in a hurry to do things quickly,” Sohail said. “I am not against giving him [Sarfraz] the captaincy but it should be done gradually. First, let him settle down in the T20 format.”
Earlier, format captains including Wasim Akram had criticised the idea of having three different captains for three different formats, which Pakistan have right now. Pakistan have had three captains since Misbah-ul-Haq’s retirement from ODI cricket following last year’s World Cup, when Azhar Ali replaced him in the limited-overs side. Sarfraz has now replaced Afridi, as the change of guard is complete in the shorter formats.
Sarfraz Ahmed should establish himself as a top-order batsman and so address Pakistan’s longstanding issue
With Misbah hinting at retirement from Tests last year, Pakistan might have to earmark his successor as well. Even so, unlike the ODIs and T20s the Test team’s current position doesn’t ask for too much tinkering.
Despite still being one of Pakistan’s fittest cricketers, at 42 Misbah doesn’t have too much international cricket in him and so the decision will have to be taken sooner rather than later. While Azhar Ali was long being touted as his heir apparent, his first year as the ODI skipper hasn’t given any cause for buoyancy.
Azhar Ali’s leadership of the ODI side and his PSL team Lahore Qalandars didn’t inspire too much confidence in his leadership ability. In both teams Azhar had trouble fitting in as a player, considering his limitations in limited-overs cricket.
In addition to Mohammed Amir, Sarfraz Ahmed is arguably the only player who can nail a slot in all three teams. However, this hasn’t stopped the management and the captain from inexplicably dropping him in the T20s. Even when he has played, Sarfraz hasn’t been asked to bat in his best position, which should be at the top of the order. In the recently concluded ICC World T20 he only faced 17 balls.
Sarfraz will be captaining Sindh in the upcoming Pakistan Cup. He led Quetta Gladiators to the PSL final, coming second to Misbah’s Islamabad United. In his stint at the PSL, captaining the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Kumara Sangakkara, Sarfraz showed enough of a performance to highlight his leadership qualities. What he now needs to do is further establish himself as an indispensible batsman in all formats, to further rubberstamp his leadership credentials across the board.
There is no reason for Sarfraz to not open the batting for Pakistan in ODIs and T20s. He has the aggression and the stability to get Pakistan off to a good start on a consistent basis. His potential partnership with Sharjeel Khan at the top could be the future for Pakistan.
Like many others, Sarfraz’s flexibility has actually hindered his chances of playing up top. With the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammed Hafeez being permanent fixtures in the team in the recent past, Pakistan’s top order has been rigid, unimaginative and ages behind contemporary cricket.
With Sarfraz now being the T20 skipper, he should do what Azhar Ali tried to do in ODIs: promote himself up the order and address Pakistan’s most glaring problem himself as the skipper. While Azhar Ali did score a few runs at the top – against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – his limitations were eventually exposed against better quality opposition. Sarfraz already has proven his mettle as a batsman Down Under during the World Cup and should now look to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the top order.
With the Gladiators, Sarfraz has proven himself to be a sound tactician and a strategist who can mould his decisions according to the match situations – which is more than we can say about his predecessor. Now all eyes will be on his Sindh side during the Pakistan Cup, before the national team embarks on the tour to England during the summer.
With a new coach expected to be appointed next month, and a new T20 captain in place already, it’s safe to say that the year 2016 will herald a lot of changes in Pakistan cricket in all formats. It’s likely that Sarfraz will be at the forefront of many of them.