November 7, 2020

Misbah led team of centurions; Sarfaraz had to contend with failing prodigies


By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Comparisons are drawn often between Misbah-ul-Haq and Sarfaraz Ahmed as captains of the Pakistan team and a few so-called pundits and pseudo experts try to glorify the achievements of Misbah and they purposely undermine the accomplishments of Sarfaraz. They are guilty of either twisting the facts or presenting only the half-truth. 

Now let me shed light on some the facts which are not highlighted or even discussed publicly. In other words let me try to bring to light the hidden half-truth. Misbah and Sarfaraz captained the national cricket team in different eras and the circumstances were dissimilar. 

While Misbah was extended maximum possible support by the ‘establishment’ of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Sarfaraz’s leg was being continuously pulled by the movers and shakers of our system. 

When Misbah was leading the Test team in particular, the players were mostly kept in a relaxed frame of mind and the batsmen in particular benefitted a lot with the peaceful mental state of theirs. 

Misbah himself amassed runs and centuries prolifically while ace batsman Younis Khan stroked century after century and the likes of Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Muhammad Hafeez and even Sarfraz literally made centuries at will. 

The scenario changed altogether from the moment Sarfaraz took over. Younis and Misbah had retired leaving a big hole in the batting line-up. 

Then uncertainties were allowed to flourish as a result of which runs and centuries dried from the bat of those who were supposed to take up the responsibility and rise to the occasion. Asad and Azhar became pedestrian as batters while the newcomers, drafted in to replace the retiring greats, took their own time in settling down. 

In this transition period Pakistan’s batting became mediocre to say the least and even Sarfaraz was unable to cope with the mounting pressure in Test matches. 

During the tenure of Misbah there were tons of centuries scored by the Pakistan batsmen in the Test arena while in the times of Sarfaraz there were literally none. 

When you don’t have adequate runs to play with how could you be expected to win a Test match no matter how resourceful you may be in the bowling department. Babar Azam, who has now blossomed into one of the best modern-day batsmen, was also found struggling for runs in Test matches in the period when Sarfaraz was leading the forces. 

Therefore Misbah was in hugely advantageous position when captaining the Test side than Sarfaraz who didn’t get the desired runs from his batters and it reflected in the results too. 

The wicketkeeper-batsman, however, made amends for his own shortfall of Test runs and centuries as well as of his more established batsmen in his side, by leading the team by example in limited overs formats which, for some reasons, has seldom been mentioned by those who derive pleasure by highlighting every chink in his armour. 

Why do people are not reminded that Sarfaraz remains the only Pakistani captain to have brought home more than one ICC trophy? Under him, Pakistan triumphed in the ICC Under-19 World Cup as well as the ICC Champions Trophy. 

Why do his critics fail to remember that Pakistan remained the top ranked team in T20 Internationals for a couple of years when he was calling the shots?

Sarfaraz’s own batting strike rate in Tests and One-day Internationals, despite every criticism and eyebrows, remains much better than many of his illustrious contemporaries.

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