Pakistan in Australia 2009-10

Sarfraz call-up deserves extended run- Ramiz

Cricinfo staff

January 8, 2010

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Iftikhar Anjum and Sarfraz Ahmed celebrate Gautam Gambhir's wicket, Pakistan v India, Super Four, Asia Cup, Karachi, July 2, 2008
"Sarfraz Ahmed's selection has to a be well thought-out, crafted move and not just a mere flirtation with the post." © AFP
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Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja believes the PCB is justified in its "big move" to call up wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for the third Test against Australia in Hobart, in all likelihood to replace a struggling Kamran Akmal. He has, however, advised that Sarfraz be given an extended run behind the stumps.

"This change is justified even though some eyebrows will be raised by this sudden coup behind the stumps in the middle of a series," Ramiz told Cricinfo. "Dispatching an unacclimatised player straight into a Test match, that too against Australia, can be fraught with risk."

The key to success behind the stumps, he said, would be to keep the position stable. "The removal of a keeper is a significant selection call, for he is as crucial to the team as its leader," he said. "This [Sarfraz's] selection has to a be well thought-out, crafted move and not just a mere flirtation with the post. A constant change behind the stumps can have an unsettling effect on the team and its leader. If Sarfraz has been penciled in as a Test wicketkeeper then his tenure should have a sensible stretch."

Akmal, he said, shouldn't be "embarrassed" any more. "He needs time out, while some would say that his time is up."

Akmal dropped four catches during Australia's second innings in the second Test at Sydney, including three off Mike Hussey, as Pakistan struggled to break the ninth-wicket partnership between Hussey and Peter Siddle. Hussey went on to score an unbeaten 134, and Australia set Pakistan a target of 176. The visitors were bowled out 36 runs short, handing Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead in three-match encounter.

Events on that final day, and Mohammad Yousuf's captaincy and defensive tactics, have drawn sharp criticism from Pakistani observers and Ramiz joined in. The tactics, he said, mirrored the quality of captaincy in domestic cricket. "He [Yousuf] entered a fresh day trying to execute a plan that had already been neutralised by the same pair a night before," Ramiz said. "It was a crazy piece of planning. Why would you want to put the shutters down so early on a brand new day when the second new ball is still in its infancy and just two wickets needed to take the team home.

"How could the think tank, boasting of bowlers with more than 500 Test wickets, allow the fresh cherry to rot? The pattern to sit in against a set batsman [Hussey] and give him an easy passage to the non-striker's zone, while trying to knock over the tail-ender [Siddle] is straight out of our first-class cricket. That the strategy got badly exposed at the top level only provides a stark reminder of how poor our first-class system is."

Other key lessons from the defeat, he said, included Faisal Iqbal's ill-suited role at No. 3 and the end of Misbah's dream run. He said the board needed to "change its avatar and win over a dejected nation."

"Also, pressure can impair our openers to think straight. The PCB needs to think straight now...it's time to revitalise a flagging club system, make selections transparent, especially at the grassroots level, assemble a lean and intense first-class format based on cities, install a cricket committee to look after cricket affairs and free itself of petty association politics."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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