Exit Sarfraz Ahmed?

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed
©Reuters
 
Qasim Umar - 2018
Qasim Umar - 2018
©Sajid Abbasi
 

ICC anti-racism code of conduct found Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, guilty of an offence that in their view merited, more than a reprimand.The 31-year old arrived back in Karachi on Tuesday, after his four-match suspension would keep him out of the two ODIs and two T20Is, on Pakistan’s on going tour of South Africa.

Sarfraz’s supporters would feel, his inappropriate comments with underlying racist tone, not uttered in a face-to-face contact  and in his own native language Urdu, were a mere frustration of the captain, whilst the 2nd ODI of the series at Durban, was slipping away from Pakistan. During Andile Phehlukwayo's innings, wicket-keeper Sarfraz was heard on the stumps microphone saying "Abey kaale, teri ammi aaj kahaan baitheen hain? Kya parwa ke aaye hai aaj?" which translates as ‘’Hey black man, where's your mother sitting today? What prayers have you got her to say for you today?".

 It was naïve, stupid and most unbecoming of national team’s captain to utter such words. His opposite number, Faf du Plessis was happy to let go the incident after Sarfraz’s public apology and a hand shake with Phehlukwayo, prior to the 3rd game in Centurion but ICC as a world cricketing governing body, had reasons to take the matter more seriously and they very rightly did.

 Former Pakistan batsman Qasim Umar, who represented the country in 1983-86, now living in Manchester, gave his views on the incident,

My heart is bleeding, it's so sad. I am angry in a situation where a captain is punished for stupidity. This guy is so lucky for if I was a PCB chairman, I would have banned him for life. Fancy a Hafiz Quran calling someone black in his own country. This idiot who Almighty Allah has showered with all the blessings which he was never worthy of and he has forgotten his worth (Auqat). I have nothing against Sarfraz for I am not jealous of his position in the game but sad thing is that he has brought shame to both Islam and Pakistan. How lucky I consider myself that I am included among great names of Pakistan Test cricketers. Of course my achievements are not like top cricketers who have played over 50 Test matches but I consider my name at the bottom of that list which is a great honour Even now autograph collectors ask me for my autographs from all over the world and what a great honour for I played four years with our present Prime Minister, Imran Khan.’

Looking back, Sarfraz cemented his place in the Test team with three hundreds in 2014 but has not been able to reach three figures since. His batting in the white ball cricket too has seen considerable decline.  Although his wicket-keeping skills are of considerable standard but often one saw the weight of captaincy having a negative effect on his effectiveness as a wicket-keeper batsman, known all around the world as a fighter. Sarfraz has not done himself any favours by accepting captaincy in all three international formats, for the strain of the around-the-year demands has taken a toll on his individual performance.

Since his taking over in 2016, Sarfraz’s captaincy, in both ODIs and T20Is, have been quite superb and he seems to manage the team very well in limited-overs cricket.  But sadly he has not been up to the mark in five-day Test cricket and his form and confidence with bat does not warranty him batting at No.7, let alone at No.6, which he has often tried and failed. Pakistan’s seventh position in the ICC Test ranking is not entirely due of Sarfraz’s unimpressive leadership but he has to take most of the blame for an uninspiring role he plays in Test matches.

Former Pakistan great, Wasim Akram’s logic of retaining Sarfraz as captain, because in his view there is no suitable replacement, is far off the mark. He for one should be aware that Pakistan is not known for fostering leaders and a new captain will not be hard to identify, once a decision is taken to relieve Sarfraz. Ironically with a national record of 10 catches behind the stumps, in his last appearance, he has every right to consider himself a certainty for the next time Pakistan takes the field in a Test match, but that should be as an ordinary member of the playing eleven.

On the other hand, no one should have any reservation in Sarfraz, returning to international cricket after the four-match suspension, for he still commands respect as a leader in white ball cricket. Pakistan ODI squad in view of the forthcoming 2019 World Cup can look forward to five-match ODI series against Australia in UAE and then in England against their hosts, as its preparation for the mega 50-over event. Pakistan’s best chance of winning the World Cup in England shall be with Sarfraz leading the campaign and one hopes Inzamam-ul-Haq and co selectors, too are on the same page.

©Cricket World 2019