SAJ SADIQ PROFILES PAKISTAN ALL-ROUNDER SARAFARZ AHMED, THE GUTSY STREET-FIGHTER FROM KARACHI
By Saj Sadiq
When a proud Misbah-ul-Haq walked off the field for the final time as captain of the Pakistan Test team in May of this year in the West Indies, he left behind an impressive legacy of success achieved against what appeared to be insurmountable odds.
Pakistan initially chose Azhar Ali for the job as One-Day Captain but given his poor record at the helm decided to hand over the captaincy to Pakistan wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed. Described back in 2014 as ‘Oxygen for the team’ by none other than Misbah himself, Sarfaraz had been marked as a candidate to lead Pakistan teams from an early age.
In 2006, as the captain of the Pakistan Under-19 team, Sarfaraz Ahmed had captured the hearts of his countrymen as he led his side to win the ICC’s Under-19 World Cup trophy with a memorable victory in the final against their arch-rival India.
His credentials as Pakistan captain were never in doubt, but first he had to establish himself in the Pakistan teams which he did with great gusto. With some gritty Test performances such as the one against Sri Lanka where he scored 103 or the one against Australia where his 109 was instrumental in inflicting a 221-run defeat on a powerful Australian side in the UAE, Sarfaraz soon established himself in the middle-order of the Pakistan line-up.
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s determination to succeed and his leadership qualities were also the reason for his appointment as Pakistan’s Test captain to succeed the hugely successful Misbah-ul-Haq. The victorious summer in England, followed by victory at home in a historic series against the World XI seemed to be the perfect precursor further success for the newly appointed Test captain as he went into his debut series against Sri Lanka in the UAE, but the results were far from ideal.
Pakistan suffered embarrassing defeats in both Test matches of the series which must have been a sobering reminder for Sarfaraz that top-level cricket has ups and downs too. Whilst normal services resumed for Pakistan under Sarfaraz’s leadership as they whitewashed the hapless Sri Lanka ODI and T20I sides in back-to-back series victories, the lessons of a disappointing Test campaign were not lost on Sarfaraz.
His next assignment as captain of the Test side is set for May 2018 as Pakistan take on Ireland at home in a historic series. Ireland may be playing their first Test match but Sarfaraz will know that he has to demonstrate his resilience and ability to learn lessons from his previous experience to prove his credentials in this form of the game as well.
When Pakistan then arrive in England to play a short two-match Test series against England, it is expected that a much more mature Sarfaraz Ahmed will be at the helm of his side. The second and final Test of the series to be played at Emerald Headingley Stadium between 1st and 5th June in 2018 promises to be a tense and interesting affair, especially given the short series being played.
If Sarfaraz’s grit and determination in the manner he has lead his team so far is any guide, the audience at Headingley can expect a tough and hard-fought contest between two keenly competitive sides where no quarter will be asked for, nor given. Sarfaraz lifted a trophy in England 2017 against all the odds and come June 2018, he could well do the same again, in front of a packed house at Headingley.