As compared to limited-overs cricket, Test captaincy is altogether a new skill for him to master
One question which can be and is always used while defending the Pakistan skipper to stay at the helm in Test cricket is, if not Sarfraz Ahmed, then who?
And to measure the merits of this question, one need not see the stats and performances of the individual in question, not even the performance of the team under his supervision, but the conditions in which he was asked to lead the five-day side.
Pakistan was left in shambles after Misbahul Haq left ODI and T20I captaincy, not that during his reign the Men in Green were on top the world, but still, stability, which was the go-to formula since Misbah’s arrival as captain, was the safe word for the team, and the veteran’s refusal to lead limited-overs sides further took just that away from Pakistan.
Azhar failed in ODIs, Afridi couldn’t gather the team under one banner in T20Is, however the Test side’s performances didn’t fluctuate a bit. One reason for that, Misbah and his ‘play safe always’ approach.
Fast forward to Sarfraz captaining all three sides, ODI and T20I performances improve dramatically, but Test performance sees a downward spiral.
Everyone said that the five-day format, the ‘real cricket’ for the old schools, the true maker and breaker of game’s greats, wasn’t Sarfraz’s cup of tea, but everyone missed one obvious detail: Sarfraz is not Misbah.
Misbah was calm, Sarfraz is the storm. Misbah was prudent, Sarfraz takes risks. Misbah played safe, Sarfraz plays to win. Misbah had Younus, Sarfraz has Azhar and Shafiq and more importantly a young side. All in all, Misbah was a defender, Sarfraz is an all-out aggressor.
Critics and fans may like to weigh a captain’s effectiveness in wins and losses but in cricket and in life, people who walk out of their comfort zone to achieve things, usually end up pulling off miraculous feats.
Sarfraz has gone out of his way to understand Test cricket as is.
He was given ODI captaincy after Azhar failed miserably at it, the T20I team under Afridi didn’t do very well too, but the Test team was doing very well under Misbah.
Hence, even minor betterment in the limited-overs would have been very visible to a spectator’s eye, like the slight fall in Test performances feels like an unsurpassable mountain at the moment.
Sarfraz has time and again proved his critics wrong. He has pulled out rabbits with everyone peeking right into the hat. He has brought Champions Trophy glory home. He has led young and fresh blood with exceptional leadership. He may soon be revered as an equal to Misbah or the Imran Khan of this age for his undeterred leadership, but, in return, we need to do one thing for him too, as fans, as critics, as the followers to this gentlemen’s sport.
We need to give him some time to master the ability to lead in Tests.
Multan Sultans' all-rounder Shahid Afridi spoke to Cricket Pakistan in an exclusive interview23/Feb/2020