The celebrations began Sunday night (IST) after Pakistan thrashed India in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final at the Oval. With the triumph, Pakistan had finally completed their ICC set and the victory was extraordinary because it came against their arch rivals. In no time, Pakistan fans flocked into the streets of the south London suburb of Kennington while in Birmingham supporters conquered the streets and let off firecrackers. However, a grand reception awaited the national heroes back at home. Sarfraz Ahmed and the winning Pakistan team landed at Karachi International Airport on Tuesday only to be welcomed by thousands of proud fans.
Victory celebrations outside The Oval. Pakistan fans are rocking in London! pic.twitter.com/e97h44uukt
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 18, 2017
The Pakistan Cricket Team, due to the security concerns, have not been able to play their home matches on their home soil. It has been several years since the crowd has witnessed a great contest at their backyard. The last time Pakistan fans had a reason to cheer for was in 2009 when the country had clinched the ICC World T20. The Champions Trophy win has brought freshness in the country, which is always given a stepchild’s treatment by cricket. In the win, which is nothing but a fairytale for Pakistan, Sarfraz Ahmed became their hero.
Sarfraz welcomed in style!
The area was jam-packed with people of all ages and the police band there played a few patriotic songs as the players walked out of the airport with the silverware. Armed guards were required to help the players out through the thronged fans, who endlessly chanted, “Long live Sarfraz!”He was showered with bouquets and was given the traditional cap and a shawl, which is usually given as a mark of respect. The party did not end there. When the skipper reached his residence in Karachi, hundreds of people had already gathered around his neighbourhood. They were everywhere, outside his house, on the rooftop and in the balconies, just to get a glimpse of their hero.
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 20, 2017
The Pakistan team was the lowest-ranked side in the Champions Trophy and Sarfraz was given an inexperienced side to field against the biggies like India and England. Despite these hurdles, he proved to be an inspiring leader and that worked like a wonder for the side. So, he did not become a superhero all of a sudden. He deserved every bit of the treatment he got from his home crowd. He has produced one of Pakistan’s greatest results with very less experience of being in the office. He was appointed Pakistan’s ODI captain earlier this year in February. The decision of choosing Sarfraz, a wicketkeeper, for the captaincy role turned out to be the best-ever call made by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the recent times.
Another successful keeper-captain…
A wicketkeeper is undoubtedly the best judge amongst all players on the field in a cricket match. He stands behind the wickets, a position where he has a close eye on the batsmen, pitch, bowlers and field placements. He is the one who can reveal the batsman’s weakness, what a bowler is doing wrong and the most important quality- he can shuffle the bowlers best, considering the above factors. And if the keeper himself is a captain, he can make these calls on his own. After the likes of MS Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara, Sarfraz is the next player whose results have highlighted the advantage of having a wicketkeeper-captain.
The Karachi-born Sarfraz made his First-Class debut in 2006 and the same year he earned an opportunity to lead Pakistan in the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup. The Champions Trophy 2017 was not the first time for Sarfraz to beat India in an ICC event’s final. As a 19-year-old, he led Pakistan to a 38-run victory against India in the U-19 CWC final. The fact that he is the first-ever Pakistani captain to beat India in two ICC finals speaks volumes about his leadership skills.
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) June 19, 2017
Former Indian wicketkeeper-batsman, Syed Kirmani who played 49 ODIs and 88 Tests, has followed Sarfraz since his teenage days as a cricketer. “I’ve followed Sarfraz since his Under-19 days. As a wicketkeeper and a batsman, he has always been consistent. This quality of his sets him apart from the other batsmen,” Kirmani told CricketSoccer.
Speaking about wicketkeeper-captains, he said, “I’ve always said, wicketkeepers are the best judge in the game. They are the ones who in reality do justice to the saying, “leading from the front.” If a keeper can bat as well, that comes in as a bonus for the player. Look at MS Dhoni, he is the best example of how successful a wicketkeeper-captain can be. During our days, selectors, who had hardly played any cricket, suggested that wicketkeepers should not be given any added responsibility such as the captain’s role.
“This mindset was not just in India, but globally. We have seen the positive results just when this particular mindset was altered,” Kirmani, who led India once during his 10-year-old ODI career, said.
Out of the five games, Sarfraz had played in the Champions Trophy in England, he batted only on two occasions. While he was among the failed batsmen in the opening match against India where he scored only 15, he displayed his strength as a middle-order batsman in the fixture against Sri Lanka. His unbeaten 61 off 79 helped Pakistan beat the Lankans by three wickets and also Pakistan had qualified for the last four. Although he hardly received enough chances with the bat, he was excellent behind the wickets.
Meanwhile, where the keepers’ records were concerned, for a change, it was not Dhoni on the top of the charts. Sarfraz finished with the most dismissals (9) ahead of Jos Butler and Niroshan Dickwella.
Ever since the terror attack on Sri Lankan players’ bus in Lahore in 2009, no team has agreed to play cricket in Pakistan; the exception being Zimbabwe that toured the subcontinent country two years back. The Champions Trophy 2017 was an acid test for a new captain, Sarfraz, and he surely has passed with flying colours. The young Pakistan team, led by a young captain, has opened a new chapter in Pakistan’s cricket. That has given yet another dream to an entire nation – bringing cricket back to Pakistan!