The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took a major decision in showing the door to Sarfaraz Ahmed. Not only the right-handed wicket-keeper batsman was stripped of captaincy across formats, but he has also been dropped from the side. This major decision was set to be on its way.
Pakistan struggled since their ICC Champions Trophy victory in 2017 and the charm disappeared.They struggled in ODIs, in particular. In Tests as well, the performances weren’t consistent. However, after doing well in T20Is, the recent drawback against Sri Lanka appeared to be the final straw for Sarfaraz Ahmed.
The Pakistan Cricket Board dropped him for the upcoming tour of Australia, where they will play three T20Is and kick-start their ICC World Test Championship campaign with two Tests. Pakistan Cricket Board took this decision exactly 12 months ahead of the ICC World T20, to be played in Australia.
The Test reigns have been handed to experienced Pakistan opener Azhar Ali, while the T20 captaincy goes to the sensational Babar Azam.
Under Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy, Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 and rose to the top of the T20I rankings, but the tough call from the Pakistan Cricket Board and the management come in the aftermath of the team’s home series defeat to a severely-depleted Sri Lanka in T20Is held in Lahore.
Here we analyze what went wrong for Sarfaraz Ahmed and what’s expected now from the side in the near future.
Sarfaraz Ahmed faded immensely of late
Earlier, there were many reports that stated the team wasn’t happy under the leader, whose own form took a hit. Not just that, the 32-year-old Sarfaraz Ahmed used to shout at his players when they used to commit mistakes on the field. Having said that, he himself was careless behind the stumps and batting wise, he offered no stability.
In his last 15 ODI innings, the experienced campaigner amassed just two scores of fifty-plus. His best was 97 against England in Leeds this year. Sarfaraz Ahmed couldn’t provide the acceleration, neither he went on to win games. He seemed stuck at the crease.
Meanwhile, the recently-concluded T20Is against Sri Lanka saw Pakistan play poor cricket. New coach Misbah-ul-Haq was reportedly unhappy with him.
Therefore, the decision made was collective in nature. The board and the management thought this was the best move possible.
Sarfaraz Ahmed made his own life difficult in terms of results and also the environment. There was a feeling he shied away from responsibilities. So the decision was in the making and it comes in a pivotal situation.
Sarfaraz Ahmed as Test captain: Matches 13, Won 4, Lost 8, Drawn 1
Sarfaraz Ahmed in last 6 Tests as captain: Lost 5, Won 1
Sarfaraz batting stats in the last 12 months in T20Is: Innings 6, Runs 101, Average 20.20, Strike-rate 112.22, Fifties 0 Hundreds 0
Where did things start changing for Pakistan?
When you look at Pakistan’s exploits in the field, they had a dismal time in the 2018 Asia Cup. After some success in UAE against the Aussies, their mix in form started to creep in. A 1-2 Test series loss at the end of 2018 against New Zealand was followed by the side struggling while touring South Africa earlier this year.
They lost the ODIs and T20Is as well against the Proteas. They were blown apart and from there on the struggled gained momentum. In ODIs, the team struggled the most. A 1-1 draw against New Zealand in UAE was followed by 2-3 loss against SA. Then the madness started when Australia thrashed them 5-0 and England blanked them 4-0 leading to the World Cup.
Having contrasting form in the 2019 World Cup meant that the pressure was telling on the side. The ODI series win against Lanka wasn’t enough to undo the damage. With the World T20 a year away, the manner in which an inexperienced Lanka got the better off Pakistan showed the chinks in the armor.
Here was a side that struggled to get results consistently.
What next for Pakistan and the new regime?
Pakistan tour Australia next for three T20Is and two Tests. Pakistan Cricket Board choose Babar as the T20I leader makes sense in many ways. Every other side has their best players leading and Babar, who is number one in T20Is gets a job he deserved. In Tests, getting in Ali seems to be a good move given the experience the opener has.
“There is no bigger honor than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game,” Azhar Ali said following the appointment. “I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship.”
Meanwhile, Babar too seemed ecstatic about his new role.
“To be named the captain of the No.1 ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date,” Babar said. “I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process. I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities.”
Pakistan head coach Misbah is trying to implement his own ideas and he has to make stern calls. The sacking of Sarfaraz Ahmed came was the start. It’s a good move made because of all uncertainties that crept in.
Now Misbah needs to identify a side and stick to it. He also needs to give freedom to the new leaders in the ranks. One hopes to see Pakistan do well under the new regime and make their presence felt.