The meek T20 series defeat might have triggered Sarfaraz Ahmed’s expulsion as the Pakistan skipper in Tests and T20Is, where he’s out of the squad as well. But there are more mitigating reasons for his exit.
With less than a year for the T20 World Cup, Pakistan, the number one T20I side, was shot a wakeup call by an understrength Sri Lanka at home. Adding to the blow, Sarfaraz’s own form had diminished across formats. If Pakistan’s premature exit from the World Cup was not reason enough, his own declining form and the whitewash by Sri Lanka were too hard to ignore for the Pakistan selectors.
Pakistan have a new coach, albeit the old familiar face of Misbah-ul-Haq, who is the chief selector and coach as well. Right from the start, he has been emphasising on the need to “freshen up” Pakistan cricket. Changes, hence, were expected on the captaincy front as there was a general feeling among fans that Sarfaraz’s leadership has become stale, and Pakistan needed a new leader and ideas before an important year, which begins with the series to Australia. It’s typical of Pakistan cricket to change underwhelming captain before important series. And Azhar Ali fits the bill in Tests, with his massive experience and composed batting, much like coach Misbah. In T20Is, the highly-rated Babar Azam takes over from him. Ali, whom Pakistan had experimented and then ditched as captain, had played under Misbah for Pakistan and local side SUI Gas, and the latter had always raved about him.
It had come a time Mohammad Rizwan had almost barged into the national camp. He’s considered a better batsman, with an average of 44 (Sarfaraz’s is 39), and keeper than him. Since the World Cup exit, his name has been doing the rounds quite frequently. He then filed another reminder with a 128 for Khyber against Central PNJB. He’s somewhat of a club legend with Sui Gas, who he had guided to domestic titles thrice in the last four years. It’s these leadership qualities that had seen him being elevated to the vice-captain.
End of the road for Sarfaraz in international cricket?
Not quite. He’s still around in ODIs, and given the storied fickleness of Pakistan cricket, nothing is impossible. Players frequently fly in and out of the management’s favour, so Sarfaraz can forge his way back into contention. You have recently seen that with Umar Akmal getting a call-up early this year. Also, if Azhar and Co can’t resurrect Pakistan, his own future could be endangered.