Sarfraz rethought his strategies at Dubai and struck gold for Pakistan…….
Pakistan cricket was in an absolute jeopardy in 2010. The spot-fixing saga brought nothing but miseries to a nation, which already in a haphazard state due to a devastating flood. The captain of the team and two once-in-a-generation pace bowlers would not feature in the national team anymore and Pakistan cricket was looking for someone to stabilise the situation. Ijaz Butt played a gamble by appointing Misbah-ul-Haq – a player whose career as over long time back – the captain of Test team and it struck gold.
Misbah brought the certain stability within the team and Misbah’s team sung the song of team spirit. With a mediocre team, Misbah continued to impress at home and abroad. From nowhere, the written-off guy in Pakistan cricket, emerged as the ultimate leader of Pakistan and Misbah, himself, would never have thought of challenging the might of Imran Khan. But, actually, he did. In numbers, his captaincy record shows better than the mighty Khan.
But despite the success, Misbah earned a lot of criticisms because of his defensive mindset. On a positive note, his defensive strategy helped to inject a certain composure in the team, which was much required to calm things down at that time, but Pakistan by nature are an aggressive bunch of species and relished someone as a captain, who would unleash the beast in the field.
Pakistan’s love and affair with aggression started with Abdul Hafeez Kardar and in the 80s and 90s, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram took it to the next level. For a certain period, it seemed, Younis Khan could be the best person to carry on this legacy, but the Pakistan Cricket Board thought otherwise. Misbah was the blue-eyed boy of PCB and he led Pakistan for seven years with success and the least amount of love.
To satisfy a Pakistani, an aggressive captain is a must. Even I also endorse the idea of the Pakistani cricket fans. A captain must be aggressive on the field as it not only helps to uplift the spirit of the team, but also aids to open the path for a different idea, which a defensive captain can’t think off.
In Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan thought that they have found someone to lead the team in an aggressive fashion and last year he was heading the right way, even though tactically he was found wanting at times, but still, his aggressive intent helped him to travel through the rough path against a bunch of mediocre sides.
His captaincy came under scrutiny in the Asia Cup and in the first Test, where his defensive approach brought the memories of Misbah era, which Pakistan have forgotten since the Champions Trophy. He was needed to reassess his strategies after the draw at Dubai and thankfully, Sarfraz responded under adversity like an Imran Khan!
Under pressure, the whole team looks towards their captain to seek confidence and at 57 for 5, Sarfraz was needed to rise to the occasion. His counter-punch along with Fakhar Zaman’s composure gave Pakistan the confidence, which helped them to dash Australia within three and a half days.
Sarfraz’s captaincy was not up to the mark in Abu Dhabi, but changed his approach in Dubai – an aggressive intent was the mantra. Firstly, he led from the front with the bat aggressively in both innings despite being injured. Secondly, he shunned the defensive field setting and used his wicket-taking bowlers more to keep Australia always under pressure. Thirdly, Sarfraz unleashed the tactics of mental intimidation against that team, which is the master in this craft. He was noisy. He looked like an inspiring figure. But never displayed his frustrations like the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh.
In the post-match conference, Sarfraz said, “You never, ever give up. To bounce back from 57 for 5, there can’t be many teams that can come back from losing five in the first session and then to win in four days by such a big margin. That is what I’ve learnt, to keep fighting”.
This is the kind of brand of captaincy, which the Pakistani cricket fans are accustomed to. Mushtaq Mohammad did it, then Imran and Javed Miandad did the same and then, Wasim Akram carried on their legacy. All fought like a Lion. Sarfraz looked the same in Abu Dhabi and he ensured that the Middle East remains a fort for Pakistan.
Pakistan reaped a rich harvest in Abu Dhabi and it was due to Sarfraz’s aggressive approach.
Sarfraz has rediscovered his aggressive mojo, the Pakistan cricket fans are happy!