Sarfraz Ahmed named Pakistan's T20I captain
Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper-batsman, has been appointed as Pakistan's T20I captain. Sarfraz is already the vice-captain of the ODI team, and he will now take over the T20I captaincy from Shahid Afridi, who stepped down from that role following Pakistan's early exit in the recently-concluded World Twenty20 in India.
"I am happy to have this opportunity and I am honored that PCB has trusted my ability to lead the country," Sarfraz told ESPNcricinfo. "Indeed, this is a challenging job but at the same time, it's the highest privilege in a cricketer's life, so I am determined to do my best to justify my position captain. I didn't make any future plan, but I will sit down with the PCB and will talk about it in due course.
"The best thing about me, I believe, is my ability to contribution for the team. I always try to play my role whatever it is - batting or wicketkeeping - regardless of the situation or the number I bat on. The more important thing about me is that I remain in my limit and don't talk much. It's my cricket that speaks, and this is what a captain should be doing - lead form the front."
The position of Pakistan's T20I captain had been a subject of much speculation in recent days, as Afridi was heavily criticised as a leader following the team's poor performances in both the Asia Cup and the World T20 - Pakistan won just three matches out of eight across the two tournaments.
In a scathing report after the World T20 debacle, Waqar Younis, Pakistan's now former coach, had lambasted Afridi's style of leadership, writing that "Afridi was not performing with the bat, ball or as a captain but I was not listened to," and that the allrounder "didn't attend few meetings, practice - and this is not how a captain leads from the front."
Soon after Waqar's report, Pakistan's team manager Intikhab Alam branded Afridi as an "absolutely clueless" captain in a five-page report that was hugely critical of Afridi's on-field tactics and off-field leadership. Intikhab also termed the use of Sarfraz in the batting order by Afridi in the World T20 as a "critical waste of talent and form". Intikhab referenced various statistics, including that of all the deliveries that Pakistan faced at the World T20, Sarfraz only played 17 of them despite having made scores of 41, 25, 58 and 38 in his four T20I innings leading into the tournament.
Sarfraz has played 21 T20Is, scoring 291 runs at 29.10, with two half-centuries. He was the captain of the Pakistan Under-19 team which won the World Cup in 2006, and is presently one of the few players in the Pakistan set-up who is assured of a spot in the XI in all three formats, which is possibly why the PCB views him as the best candidate to replace Afridi. Sarfaz also showed off his captaincy credentials during the Pakistan Super League, where he led Quetta Gladiators to the final.
Sarfraz's T20I captaincy debut, though, will have to wait till September 7, when Pakistan play England at Old Trafford for a one-off match. The team's next home series is against West Indies in the UAE, where at least two T20Is are likely to be played.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson