Tipped by many to take the reins of Test side as well from retiring Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s T20 and ODI skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will face a different situation from what he encountered when he took limited formats’ responsibility. This time he would take the command from a captain who has performed well.
He took T20 captaincy from under-performing Shahid Afridi and helpless Azhar Ali in ODIs. But Misbah’s case is quite different. He is given the credit for bringing Pakistan from Lord’s 2010 scandalous abyss to No 1 Test spot in 2016 despite not playing a single match on home soil.
It would be shocking news if PCB doesn’t elevate Sarfraz from Test vice captain to captain. There has been a forceful call from cricket pundits to former cricketers to make Sarfraz captain in all three formats.
And as Misbah bids farewell, PCB should not delay the announcement to avoid any speculations. Even outgoing Misbah has backed Sarfraz indirectly to become Test skipper. He said there should be one skipper in all three formats. If PCB follows his advice then Sarfraz is the only choice.
Misbah has been hailed as a hero of Pakistan cricket. Misbah is unlike other Pakistan’s other successful captains, who generally failed to grasp the right time of their retirement and became burden on the team, only to be unceremoniously shown the doors eventually.
Misbah and Younis Khan were recently named among Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. Misbah’s period as the leader has been free of controversy.
Sarfraz has not made headlines for wrong reasons so far and has proved his mettle as skipper in T20s, but the ODI series against the West Indies is his first series as full-time ODI captain.
The brilliant performance in T20 series against hosts West Indies makes Green-shirts’ fans hopeful of a similar performance in ODI series.
However, leading in Tests will be a different experience and taking the team ahead from where Misbah leaves will be a great challenge. Sarfraz is said to be aggressive, but will he be able to calculate the aggression needed in Tests, which is certainly different from limited overs’ formats.
Misbah was criticized for being a defensive skipper but he eventually succeeded with that approach. Remember Misbah is Pakistan’s most successful Test skipper.
People who closely monitor Pakistan cricket put their weight behind Sarfraz.
“Sarfraz had led the Under-19 team to World Cup victory in 2006. He has also captained PIA and led Gladiators to two PSL finals. He is a captaincy material,” says former chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed Sallu.
Former spin wizard Abdul Qadir also says that Sarfraz is a fighter and should be made Test captain.
Qadir adds that making Sarfraz captain in all three formats will unite the team.
The 29-year-old must know that stepping in Misbah’s shoes will be trickier then either stepping in Afridi’s or Azhar Ali’s. But his track record shows he could emulate Misbah and lead Pakistan forcefully in Tests also.
Like Misbah, Sarfraz also should remain away from controversies and keep focused on long term goals.