April 28, 2021

Sarfraz Ahmed: Scapegoat or good luck omen?

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan cricket authorities have devised a unique strategy to tackle Sarfraz Ahmed. The former all-format captain and a wicketkeeper-batsman, is allowed to play only when the series or the prestige is at stake and they’re being subjected to extreme criticism by media and experts over selection follies. 

This has happened for three series now. In England last summer, there was great uproar when Pakistan had lost the first couple of games and he was played in the third and final outing which Pakistan went on to win. 

The series against South Africa was hanging in balance when Sarfraz was blooded in the decisive third encounter which Pakistan managed to win and the most recently the T20 series against Zimbabwe was also locked at one-all when he was finally chosen for the do-or-die third fixture which was won by Pakistan again. 

Interestingly Sarfraz has been drafted in the playing eleven only upon the hue and cry in media and public in general. 

Obviously the cricket-loving Pakistanis get upset when the team starts losing and the selectors and the tour management committee were left with no option to play Sarfraz to silence their critics.

It’s an open secret that the present set-up is not fond of Sarfraz. Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis have had history of victimizing him even when he was at the peak of his career. How can they be expected to support him at a time when he needed care and understanding to overcome a lean patch? 
Let me remind both these gentlemen, still holding key positions despite their controversial tenure that Sarfraz, even today, deserves to be in the playing eleven in all three formats if merit is the sole criterion for selection. He has better strike-rate than every Pakistani batsman other than Babar Azam. 

There’s absolutely no problem in picking him automatically for the white-ball outfits. Many of the international teams are fielding more than one wicketkeeper-batsman in their playing eleven these days. Australia, England, India and Sri Lanka in particular are doing it most frequently. 

Therefore hell will not break loose if Pakistan also engages two wicketkeeper-batsmen in their line-up since they are good enough to make the cut. 

Muhammad Rizwan, who has been supported generously and extravagantly by the powers that be in an effort to displace Sarfraz by hook or by crook, has become the darling of the Pakistani commentators and former Test cricketers. These same guys were playing similar tune when Sarfraz was at the peak of his career not very long ago. 

Coming to selection matters, it’s really mind boggling to find Asif Ali and Haider Ali such an extended run at the international stage after so many failures. If the policy is not corrected and the current Pakistan team is not altered then I don’t see them going anywhere in the World T20 Championship due to be held later this year. Changes are needed and time is fast running out. The concerned authorities will be advised to take remedial actions rather than using their energies in counterproductive pursuits.

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