ICC World Cup

Did Sarfaraz Ahmed also deserve to be sacked as Pakistan ODI captain?

Pakistan’s almost mandatory post-global tournament purge was completed on Friday with the sacking of Sarfaraz Ahmed as the country’s Test and T20I captain. Pakistan now have a new captain, head coach and chief selector after the Sarfaraz-led side failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the World Cup 2019. Numerous media outlets were abuzz with rumours of Sarfaraz being sacked after his No. 1 ranked T20I side were whitewashed by an under-strength Sri Lanka side in Lahore recently. However, in Sarfaraz’s case, it is indeed curious that almost 3 months after Pakistan’s World Cup 2019 campaign came to an end, the decision regarding his ODI captaincy has been put on hold for the time being.

After the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) did away with the entire support staff, Sarfaraz would have thanked the almighty for his luck as the only one standing firm in his position as a major stakeholder in the country’s sport. But the Sri Lanka loss and his own continuing poor form meant that Sarfaraz has now not just lost the captaincy, but also been dropped from the Pakistan side due to visit Australia in November.

18, 5*, 2*, 12, 44*, 8, 23, 24, 26, 17 – scores of Sarfaraz in his last 10 innings. A batting average of 17.9 doesn’t bode well for any wicketkeeper-batsman, let alone one who is supposed to lead his team under constant scrutiny of the world media.

Overall, in 13 Tests as captain, Sarfaraz averaged a meagre 25.81 while Pakistan lost 8 of those matches. The team which attained the No. 1 Test spot under his predecessor Misbah-ul-Haq, is currently at No. 7 in the rankings. Before being whitewashed 3-0 in South Africa in December-January (a series in which Sarfaraz scored 3 ducks), Pakistan had lost a three-Test series in the UAE 2-1 to New Zealand. The latter hurt Pakistan more as it was the country’s 2nd ‘home’ series loss after Sri Lanka had beaten them in UAE 2017.

As far as the matter of the World Cup 2019 is concerned, even though Pakistan failed to make it to the last-4, it shouldn’t be forgotten that they were unable to do so because eventual runners-up New Zealand had a superior run-rate. As is mostly the case with a Pakistan team at a global event, the World Cup 2019 which saw Pakistan being at their mercurial best winning 5 of their 9 matches – before they won the 3-match ODI series vs Sri Lanka in Karachi in September. While leading Pakistan in 50 ODIs, Sarfaraz has scored 804 runs at an average of an ‘average’ 32.16 as his team lost 20 of those matches. But more on this later.

However, even after the Lahore T20I series defeat to Sri Lanka, Sarfaraz can be excused if he chooses not to agree with his sacking from the shortest format. After all, it was during his reign, that Pakistan climbed to the top of the T20I rankings and have managed to hold on to it despite the Lahore debacle. Leading Pakistan in 37 T20Is, Sarfaraz led them to victory in 29 of those matches while losing just 8, even though his batting-average of 27.42 doesn’t necessarily jump out of the record books.

If Sarfaraz’s results seem somewhat confusing to you as regards his sacking, the decision was no less difficult for PCB chief Ehsan Mani, who termed the former’s contributions as ‘second to none’.

“It has been a difficult decision to drop Sarfaraz Ahmed, who has performed well as a player and a leader. But, his loss in form and confidence is visible and, in the best interest of the team, it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket.

“Sarfaraz Ahmed’s contributions are second to none and being the gutsy cricketer and fighter that we all know he is, I have no doubts he will be back in Pakistan colours at some stage.”

So there it is, Mani clearly admitted that ‘loss in form and confidence’ were the primary reasons for Sarfaraz’s sacking. The decision to not sack Sarfaraz the ODI captain as of yet only seems to be borne out of the fact that Pakistan are not scheduled to play any ODIs till July 2020 and if by then things (read: Sarfaraz’s batting form) don’t take a dramatic turn, the wicketkeeper-batsman could lose his place at the helm in ODIs as well. The historic Champions Trophy 2017 win hangover might have just saved him from being sacked from all formats but it remains to be seen how long this hangover lasts or whether Sarfaraz, aged 32 can summon his inner batsman in the intervening period.

Article source: https://www.indiatoday.in/sports/cricket/story/sarfaraz-ahmed-odi-captain-pakistan-cricket-board-ehsan-mani-1610820-2019-10-18?utm_source=rss

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