Sarfraz Ahmed proves Pakistan think-tank wrong
Sarfraz was named the MOM for his knock of 49 off 49; for his six catches which is a record in ODI cricket for Pakistan. (Source: AP)
Sarfraz Ahmed was very much the player of the year for Pakistan in 2014. Finally, Pakistan had a reliable wicket-keeper batsman who could not only keep well but was also able with the bat. So when the World Cup started it was a big surprise that Sarfraz was not in the first XI. Pakistan did a mid-tournament course correction on Saturday when they finally picked Sarfraz, to play South Africa. (Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
Sarfraz was named Player of the Match for his knock of 49 off 49, plus for his six catches in the South Africa innings, a Pakistan record in ODI cricket. That Sarfraz made an instant impact proved how wrong the Pakistan think-tank were in delaying his selection. Sarfraz’s recent record certainly warranted automatic selection. In the last seven Tests of 2014 Sarfraz hit three hundreds making him the most valuable player. He had scores of 55, 52 n.o., 103, 55, 109, 15 n.o., 19 n.o., 13 n.o., 112, 24 n.o., 15 and 37. In ODIs Safraz was pushed up to open the batting against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE. Here too he had scores of 34, 65, 32, 26, 23,30 n.o., 18 and 26. But the he had two failures against New Zealand in New Zealand in the middle-order and Pakistan think-tank lost hope, as they made Sarfraz sit out the opening matches of the World Cup.
They handed the gloves to a part-timer like Umar Akmal to strengthen the batting line-up. The result was disastrous. Akmal dropped Virat Kohli at a crucial stage of the Indian innings in the World Cup encounter at Adelaide. Similarly against West Indies, Akmal dropped another catch. But the Pakistan think-tank was not willing to budge.Akmal then took five catches in the match against Zimbabwe to justify the team management’s faith.
But while Akmal was failing with the bat and gloves, the team was also suffering because of lack of runs from opener Nasir Jamshed. Sarfraz had been looked at as the third opener before the World Cup, but the Pakistan think-tank was wary of exposing him in the conditions available Down Under.
“Obviously we are just considering that, and before this in UAE he (Sarfraz) was just opening the inning. Different conditions, but now we have to just think about that,” said Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq before the South Africa match.
Even the Pakistan coach Waqar Younis was not convinced about the Sarfraz move. “Look, we have 15 here, so we will try to pick up the best side on the day. So if it’s Nasir, or Sarfraz or Younis or someone else comes, whatever we feel is the right combination, that’s how we go about it,” said Waqar on the eve of the match.
Sarfraz was not a certainty to play South Africa at the Eden Park in Auckland. However, when play finally started Sarfraz was in the XI. He started off briskly and bravely to scatter South Africa around. He made 49 off 49 balls and set the tone for Pakistan innings. A big fan of Pakistan’s former wicket-keeper and current chairman of selectors, Moin Khan, Sarfraz tries to bat like his idol. Just like Moin batted fearlessly while taking on the fast bowlers, Sarfraz tries to do something similar. In fact at times he even aims to sweep the quicks like Moin.
Then when he kept wickets, he showed the value of having a regular wicket-keeper. His catch to dismiss Hashim Amla was the best of the lot. He dived to his right to come up with a low catch. His selection was justified with that one effort behind the stumps.
Pakistan finally had a specialist in place as their World Cup campaign also came back on track. Hopefully Pakistan will show patience with Sarfraz and persevere with him even if he has a few failures.
Source:: Indian Express