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Sarfraz Ahmed: A lynchpin for a new renaissance in Pakistan Cricket

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You remember Afridi as ‘boom-boom’ for his mighty strokes. You regard the immovability of Misbah on the Test turf. You credit Younis Khan for being the standard-bearer for Test greatness.

What do you regard Captain Sarfraz Ahmed for?

In a side that clearly has, on the one hand, a Mohd. Amir who’s bowled the maximum overs on the international stage for Pakistan and a belligerent striker in Fakhar Zaman on the other- is Sarfraz Ahmed, the glue that binds an array of discerning talents together.
Often labeled as tad bit talkative behind the stumps and strangely nicknamed ‘frog’, few current cricketers in Pakistan set-up have been able to exemplify the fighting spirit of Pakistan.
Lest it is forgotten that ever since he took over as captain across formats, following Misbah’s retirement and Azhar Ali’s abdicating the leadership (Feb’ 17), the standard narrative involving Pakistan has involved less of pungent controversies and concerned itself more with series wins.
Usually heavily outspoken, spurred by a contest and renowned for a proclivity for hard work, most Pakistani captains have exemplified aggressive characteristics with the possible exception being Misbah, known to be a quiet, cerebral mind.
The anointment of Sarfraz Ahmed- 2236 runs from 38 Tests, 1729 runs from 85 ODIs- is, therefore, a return to standard operating ways
At a time where Amir’s return to being a mainstay across formats was as necessary as the continued progress of Babar Azam, -Pakistan’s trump card in limited overs cricket- Sarfraz’s handy leadership has been a composing factor bridging the gaps between fiery minds and cricketing neophytes in the mainstream.

And how well has this reflected in the team’s fortunes?

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Beginning from their hammering of Sri Lanka throughout 2017- starting a whitewash of the waning cricketing body in the UAE, followed by going 3-nil in the T20 series that followed, Sarfraz Ahmed ensured his young and resuscitated unit would commence a juggernaut.
When they descended in New Zealand, the odds of succeeding against Boult and Southee were as onerous as expecting relative newbies- Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman- to pile on the runs.
But encouraging his younger lads to go all out and engage in an uncompromising brand of cricket, Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan produced a juggernaut that came back sternly and sharply upon a catastrophic ODI series loss by subduing their hosts in the T20 series.
Useful, quickfire scores of 41 and 29 by the captain showed the young guns the benefits of dancing down the track to Sodhi, Santer and even Grandhomme.

The greatest moment for Sarfraz though, came when his side beat a Kohli-led Indian in the Champion’s Trophy finals.

Even as his contribution was through affecting 3 dismissals behind the stumps, since he never got a chance to bat, the sight of the experienced and youth blending in a titanic effort under the watchful eyes of the dainty cricketer made for jovial scenes, captured well by worldwide media.
The gravitas of Shoaib Malik and the skill of Mohammad Hafeez met the brilliant fiery batting of Fakhar Zaman with Sarfraz being the constant figure of motivation, often running up to his bowlers, patting their backs at the back of a tidy over, admiring a run well-saved.

Isn,t Sarfaraz what Pakistan cricket desperately needed; someone around whom they could rally?

Another promising aspect of Ahmed’s leadership served with effusive praise by the cricket board is the magnanimity of effort the younger lot display in taking charge of a contest.
Maybe it’s fortune, maybe it’s the natural course of things, but today, you cannot imagine a Pakistani attack minus Hasan Ali, a new ball spearhead who credits his captain for encouraging him to play freely and expressing himself positively.
With an ability to stitch useful partnerships and rotate the strike well, there’s more to Sarfraz’s lip-service, something he’s liberal in extending to his own teammates at the advent of an average or mediocre effort in the field.
With age being on his side- 31- and some decent turnings with the bat, his average across both formats being in the midst of 30s, Sarfraz hasn’t fared that poorly despite not being a natural stroke-maker like some of his glorious predecessors- Younis, Anwar, Mohd. Yousuf.
And maybe it’s this skill to compete as a first-rate athlete and an uncompromising spirit that loves to uphold the dignity of Pakistan’s sport that marks him with respect, a lot of which has come his way following the Champion’s Trophy triumph. Keep fighting Sarfraz.

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