Sarfraz Ahmed will become the 32nd player to captain a Pakistan Test side on Thursday. Few would have been as destined for the captaincy and fewer still would have faced the size of the task he does, in following the winningest Test captain in Pakistan's history, Misbah-ul-Haq.

Sarfraz has liked to point out that he has captained his way through his career, from club sides to age-level to domestic sides to a gradual assumption of the leadership across formats for Pakistan. He is used to this kind of responsibility, with differing levels of scrutiny. But it will not lessen the momentousness of the occasion personally.

"Look, obviously its a proud moment," he said. "I mean to play for your country is big enough, but to then captain in formats and then all three, and be the Test captain, that is a huge honour for me. I am very excited and I'll try the way I've worked with the ODI and T20 team, I can do the same with the Test side. The guys are excited too."

Though it would be easy to be awed by his predecessor's record, maybe even distracted by all the talk of him not being there, Sarfraz has been around the Misbah side long enough to have a grasp of how it operated.

"[The talk has] not been a distraction, but there is one thing to not have your main players who have been playing consistently and for long. We have to move ahead and for us, we have to remember the good things they did, their disciplines, the way they prepared. The things they taught us, we have tried to maintain. I spoke to Misbah recently, had a good meeting with him. I've spoken to Younis regularly so whatever we've learnt from them, we'll try to produce here."

Perhaps because it has been some time since they last played a Test, or because of the enduring post-triumph glow of the Champions Trophy, or just because their opponents seem to be in more of a bad place, it is easy to forget that Pakistan slipped as a Test side towards the end of Misbah's tenure.

Pakistan have lost seven of their last nine Tests and coupled with the exits, Pakistan's relatively calm mood doesn't match the depth of the task in front of them. And for all the noise about Sri Lanka's fall, they sit only one place and three points behind Pakistan in the Test rankings.

Still, the widespread view is that Pakistan start favourites, with a decent bowling attack and a still settled core. Sarfraz was either playing down expectations, or recognising Pakistan's form when he said that the greater challenge would be for his side.

"For us it's even more challenging because we're a very young side," he said. "After very long we have such a young team playing. I'm hoping we do well and for myself as a captain, it will be very important - the first Test is always important."