Much has been said and written about the Pakistani skipper in all formats, but what stands out in his personality is the resilience with which he lifted not only himself but also the entire team. The green shirts had been dragged to the seventh spot in ICC T20 Rankings when Sarfraz was given the captaincy, and he took less than two years to bring the team back on track.
Pakistan has enjoyed a good T20 record, considering the lack of participation in major T20 leagues, especially IPL. Not to mention the discovery of young talent from successive PSL editions. But above all, it has been Sarfraz who anchored the ship wisely when the experienced campaigner Shahid Afridi retired.
The street smart cricketer is known to keep the players on their toes, and is often caught on the stump mic instructing, or rather yelling, at them. Youngsters including Hasan Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan and others have flourished under him because he gave them a fair opportunity in every match to prove their mettle against tough competitors.
The green shirts rose to number one position in the ICC T20 Rankings after winning seven consecutive T20I series under Sarfraz. Moreover, the prolific ODI batsman Babar Azam achieved the number one spot in ICC T20 Batting Rankings with Imad Wasim making it to the top ten bowlers in the shortest format. All these gains reflect the strength of the team in terms of all-round, consistent performances.
Sarfraz himself shunned the critics by performing well with the bat and gloves. After the destructive defeats against New Zealand, Sarfraz batted at number four in both second and third T20Is. He made useful contributions in the top order to lead by example. The skipper was dead clear about his aim: to make Pakistan number 1 in the T20 ranking.
The current team formation is as good as it gets. Despite the injured Imad Wasim who couldn’t take part in New Zealand T20s, there were enough resources for the ‘man with a plan’ who used his players to full potential. His main weapons: Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf – all exciting players who have plenty to offer in the shortest format.
Unlike in ODIs – where he needs to do a lot to improve his team – Sarfraz has a much more organised game plan as we witnessed in the T20Is against Kiwis. What he did in the second two games was to put the scores on the board and choke the opposition in need for big overs with the likes of economical bowlers like Shadab, Hasan and Amir. The side looks more comfortable defending the totals.
Unlike Afridi, Sarfraz is likely to leave behind a cache of consistent players that can be captained by anyone among the ranks. Some may argue with his style of captaincy and unnecessary shuffling of bowlers and batsmen, but he has shown that it can work more often than not, making him one confident executor that the lineup longed for.