Sarfraz Ahmed - Two matches on, and everybody's champion
I have never witnessed a team management being so wrong about a player. From Waqar Younis to Misbah Ul Haq, absolutely no one had the confidence in Sarfraz' ability to open the innings in Australia and New Zealand.
One can't entirely blame them, considering that Sarfraz failed in 5 innings in ODIs and practice games in New Zealand and Australia leading up to the World Cup. But once Hafeez was injured, I believe he should have played ahead of Nasir Jamshed. However, the team management thought otherwise.
So much so that they gave public statements about how they didn't think Sarfraz was technically equipped to open on these pitches. Waqar even went on to say that Sarfraz' career would have been destroyed if they had opened with him.
Nasir Jamshed failed so miserably that the coach and captain were left with no choice but to bring in Sarfraz for the all-important game against South Africa. It was not something Waqar and Misbah wanted. It was something they were forced to do.
The way Sarfraz responded was purely magical. His performances have been a response that I have not seen from anyone who has been so explicitly publicly criticized by his own management. Two matches on, he is everyone's hero!
He has played only two of Pakistan's six matches in this World Cup and this is what he has already achieved:
1. The only wicketkeeper from Pakistan to score a World Cup 100.
2. Pakistan's only centurion in this World Cup.
3. Pakistan's first centurion in a World Cup since Imran Nazir in 2007.
4. Two matches, two man of the match awards.
5. No bowler has been able to dismiss him.
6. Second most man of the match awards in the World Cup after Kumar Sangakkara.
7. Part of Pakistan's only opening partnership of over 100 in Australia this century. Sarfraz and Shehzad's 120 runs stand against Ireland was Pakistan's only third century opening partnership in ODIs played in Australia, and the first in 25 years since Rameez Raja and Saeed Anwar's 202-run stand against Sri Lanka in Adelaide in 1990.
8. Equalled the world record of 6 dismissals by a wicketkeeper in an ODI.
Imagine what could have been had he been playing from the start. Sarfraz Ahmed is a champion cricketer and he is the best thing that has happened for Pakistan in this World Cup.