||22 May 1987
Sarfraz Ahmed is a wicketkeeper batsman who could have meandered into irrelevance, as has been the case for many capable cricketers on Pakistan's domestic circuit. Instead, he became the first Pakistan captain since the great Imran Khan to win a 50-over world title. Sarfraz took over the ODI reins in February 2017, providing his side with rare single-minded direction and focus. In June that year, Pakistan went into the Champions Trophy as the lowest-ranked team and lost heavily against India to start off, but then went on a red-hot run to beat South Africa, Sri Lanka and hosts England, and finally India to claim the prize. A right-hand middle-order batsman, Sarfraz wasn't always the sprightly presence that bossed the Sharjah Test of 2014 - when Pakistan chased 302 in 57.3 overs to level the series. In fact, between 2007 - when he made his debut - and 2014, Sarfraz had played just four Tests, four T20Is and 26 ODIs. He was miles off being a regular in any of Pakistan's sides, and not nearly good enough to warrant a place as a specialist batsman; he hadn't scored an international half-century in all this time. It was an era when the Akmals - no less than three of them - had taken out a lease on the area behind the stumps. Sarfraz had appeared on Pakistan's radar initially by leading Pakistan's Under-19s to the World Cup title in 2006, scoring half-centuries in his third and fourth match. He broke into domestic cricket, where 523 runs in 10 matches along with 28 dismissals behind the stumps pushed him into the A team's tour of Australia in 2007. Then he was left in the wilderness. It took seven long years for the spotlight to return to Sarfraz, when he made 74 in Pakistan's total of 359 in the second innings against Sri Lanka in Dubai. The innings was in a losing cause, but it did establish him as the team's first-choice wicketkeeper. He averaged 71.20 over the next 18 months, and during this period also elbowed his way into the ODI side midway through the 2015 World Cup campaign with a run-a-ball 49 against South Africa. Since then, Sarfraz has been a man for all formats, steady with the gloves, aggressive with the bat and street-smart as a captain across formats. At 30, with the Champions Trophy tucked under his arm, he became arguably Pakistan's most respected cricketer since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.