Why Sarfraz Ahmed should be rested as Pakistan's skipper
The Asia Cup 2018 recently came to a close with the Indian Cricket Team emerging as champions. The tournament witnessed some electric hitting, bowling, and fielding, with Afghanistan emerging as the breakout stars.
But what became of Pakistan?
Before the Asia Cup started, Pakistan were touted as the favorites to lift the trophy due to their maiden Champions Trophy win in England last year. Pakistan beat out India, its archrivals, to claim the trophy in the final; however, the euphoria was short-lived as Pakistan crashed out of its next biggest title assignment before the finals.
The only man to come out of this tournament unscathed from criticism is Shoaib Malik, who managed to give a decent account of his skills in the middle.
Sarfraz was particularly woeful throughout the tournament, be it his keeping, batting or captaincy. He was unimaginative on the field and looked lost with the blade in his hand.
Just a few months ago he was being compared to Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a transformative figure in Pakistani cricket. People were even comparing the Karachiite to the legendary all-rounder Imran Khan. But in just a few short weeks, fans are now calling for his head.
What changed so fast?
Well, a lot actually.
Loss of batting form
Sarfraz was a revelation when he first burst on to the scene with the bat. Pakistan has always been blessed with good wicket-keepers but there has never been a keeper batsman with Test and ODI averages of 37.78 and 34.27, respectively.
But the past fifteen games have exposed the skipper's weaknesses in terms of big hitting. He comes in at crunch situations when he needs to either stabilize the innings or go for big hits, neither of which he is adept at.
Loss of confidence
Statistically, Sarfraz is one of Pakistan's most successful captains, recently becoming the most successful skipper for his side in T20I matches. He has also won an Under-19 Cricket World Cup along with Pakistan's maiden Champions Trophy. He did all these things by leading from the front, making imaginative field placings and a clever street-smart approach.
However, recent matches indicate that his powers may be waning and that he is in a dire need of a break. He has been defensive and circumspect in the way he has handled the players, leaving many to wonder if he was the same man that led Pakistan cricket's resurgence over the past year.
Some of his teammates don't like him
Sarfraz has a very hands-on approach to captaincy. He likes to make a game plan and then expects his players to stick with it till the very end. This has led to some very interesting altercations between him and his fellow players, such as Hasan Ali and Anwar Ali. Many have called on him to cool down, but he insists that this approach brought him to the top in the first place.
Experts agree that the problem he is facing currently has more to do with his lack of confidence than anything else. As he is not performing, he faces the unenviable task of asking his players to maintain the highest standards while he is unable to do so himself.
He needs a break
Ever since taking over, Sarfraz has been a constant fixture in the side and has refused to let anybody else take over the reins as Pakistan captain for even a brief period. This could be due to the paranoia associated with Pakistani captains in general, as sitting out a game generally means that you are now out of the side.
But he needs to think things over. His body and mind need rest so that he can come back rejuvenated as it is now set in stone that he will be leading the side in England for the World Cup 2019. Pakistan has always had a good track record in England, reaching the finals of World Cup 1999, and winning the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
There is every chance that we may see a Pakistan vs. India epic in the final, and Sarfraz and Co. need to be firing on all cylinders when they take the field for such a match. Otherwise, we may see a fairy tale ending for MS Dhoni's career.