Pakistan were among the top contenders in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) between 2008 and 2015 under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq followed by Shahid Afridi’s reign. Ever since the latter quit as Pakistan’s ODI captain after leading the side for five years, Pakistan’s form went for a toss. The new skipper, Azar Ali, who took charge in 2015, took some time to get accustomed to the role. He led Pakistan in 31 ODIs and won only 12, ended on the losing side for 18 matches and there was one instance when there was no result. In the last two years, Pakistan have managed to triumph only over lower-ranked sides like Zimbabwe, Ireland and Bangladesh in the 50-over format, while they lost to England, New Zealand and Australia.
The only achievement on Ali’s resume in the ODIs was West Indies’ drubbing of 0-3. While the Pakistanis slowly had begun to finally find form and produce positive results, Ali broke the news of his resignation as Pakistan’s ODI captain. While Pakistan had the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 as their focus, Ali thought the responsibility was being a hindrance in his form with the bat. Just when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were analysing their disappointing tours of New Zealand and Australia and tried to find a solution, Ali’s announcement hit Pakistan really bad. It goes without saying that a team takes the time to settle under a new captain; however, the squad was lucky to already have Ali’s successor ready to take up the job.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, Sarfraz Ahmed, who had been leading the Pakistan’s T20I side for a year then, had already impressed with his T20I captaincy. The results he brought for the country had set a benchmark, making him the evident choice to replace Ali. Following Pakistan’s horrendous ICC WT20 2016, Shahid Afridi had stepped down, making way for a young Sarfraz to wear the captain’s armband. Under him, Pakistan right away showed improvement. To begin with, they defeated England at their backyard followed by a white-wash in three-T20I series against world champions, West Indies.
It was the first time Pakistan had ever won all the matches of a three-match T20I series and the feat was achieved under a young Sarfraz. After Misbah, Sarfraz became the second Pakistani captain to win the first six T20I matches. These numbers in the shortest format undoubtedly back him and testify that he will go on to be a successful captain in a long run. The recently ended limited-overs series against West Indies was the first time when Sarfraz led the team in both ODIs and T20Is.
Pakistan won the T20I series 2-1 before Sarfraz registered his first ODI series victory as a captain when the visiting team beat West Indies 2-1. Unlike the T20I series, Pakistan began the 50-over matches with a loss in the opening game. Despite a high total of 308 put up by Pakistan in the first innings, they finished on the losing side because West Indies successfully chased that down with six balls to spare. Sadly, Sarfraz began his ODI captaincy with a loss.
In the ODIs against West Indies, he did not face a lot of balls as the top and middle-order had done a great job with the bat. Added to that, Ahmed’s decisions on the field, his field placements, bowling changes ensured Pakistan outclassed West Indies in the ODI series and maintained their record of not having lost a bilateral ODI series to West Indies since 1991. Although West Indies in a position below Pakistan in the ICC ODI rankings, a win just after the change of skipper only brought positive vibes in the side.
— Zeeshan Ahmed (@mrsportsjourno) April 13, 2017
Even former ODI and current Test captain, Misbah, has backed Sarfraz as Pakistan’s new captain. “He is positive and has led Pakistan to victories in all the T20Is he has captained so far, which is very good sign for him as a captain. He (Sarfraz) needs to remain positive like this and keep all the players gelled together with positivity for a successful tenure as captain,” Misbah said.
Similar to MS Dhoni, Sarfraz is a wicketkeeper-batsman and skipper of the team and only comes four or five-down. Even then, he was the top-scorer of Pakistan in 2016 with 492 runs in 11 matches and had consistently retained an average above 50. With the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017 a couple of months away, this all-new Sarfraz-led Pakistan will aim shock the higher-ranked sides and produce a surprise performance in the ICC tournament.