What‘s the story?
Pakistan wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed is set to return home after his mother was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a Karachi hospital with a serious illness. He did not play in the warm-up match against Cricket Australia XI and is likely to be ruled out of the upcoming ODI series against Australia.
The news comes in the wake of Mohammad Irfan’s departure from the squad on Monday. The tall left-arm pacer flew back home after his mother had passed away and Junaid Khan was named as his replacement. Kamran Akmal has emerged among the front-runners to replace Sarfraz for the 5-match series down under.
In case you didn’t know...
Sarfraz endured a torrid time in the recently completed Test series. Amidst a slew of dropped catches and missed stumpings, he did not exactly cover himself in glory with the bat either. Though the 29-year old tallied 226 runs at an average of 56.50, quite a few soft dismissals added to Pakistan’s costly collapses.
The T20I skipper of the Pakistani team, he is being touted as a possible option to take over the captaincy for the other formats as well. The right-hander managed to top the run charts in Pakistan’s ODI series in England last year despite his team on the receiving end of a 1-4 shellacking.
The heart of the matter
Following their 0-3 whitewash at the hands of Australia in the Test series, Pakistan are in for a tough time as the action shifts to the 50-overs format. Azhar Ali’s team are ranked eighth while the top-ranked Aussies have only lost one (against India in Sydney, 2016) of their previous 23 home ODIs.
In the absence of vice-captain Sarfraz, Akmal is seen as the likely choice given his experience and strong back-foot game. The 34-year old has been in solid form in the domestic circuit and even ended up as the leading run-scorer in last year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
If selected, he will have to fight for the wicket-keeper slot with Mohammad Rizwan, who stood behind the stumps in the practice game.
The first ODI between Australia and Pakistan is slated to be held at the Gabba on Friday. The surface is expected to offer plenty of carry to the seamers.
As for Sarfraz himself, the second season of the Pakistan Super League beginning on the 9th of February will be his next major assignment.
Pakistan’s already slim chances in the ODI series has taken another huge hit. While Irfan’s height can be replaced by Junaid’s control, Sarfraz’s absence in the lower middle-order should be a massive blow.
Though cricket is their major livelihood, there are more important things in a cricketer’s life such as family. At a testing time, our sincere prayers are with the families of Sarfraz and Irfan.