Sarfaraz Ahmed was reluctant to play the final T20I during the England series. ESPNcricinfo understands the former captain was concerned that his tour would be judged on the basis of just one game.
Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan's first-choice wicketkeeper, played every other game and had an impressive tour; his performance with the gloves - particularly in the Test series - was widely praised. With the bat, he scored two fighting half-centuries and was named Pakistan's Player of the Series. He played the first two T20Is as well, before Ahmed replaced him for the final match. But the team management and captain Babar Azam had to convince Ahmed to play the match, assuring him his career wouldn't be defined by one game, and he still had a future with the national team.
"He didn't refuse to play but raised genuine reservations over being asked to play in the last match of the tour," Pakistan's coach Misbah-ul-Haq told ESPNcricinfo. "The situation naturally gives you a concern and that's fair because he thought that a dip in his performance may get us to judge him going forward. Babar, Younis [Khan, the batting coach] and I spoke with him and told him that he did well on the tour and he should play one game without any additional pressure. There was a need for clarity and we communicated effectively with him well before the game."
Pakistan eventually won the game to draw the series, and while Sarfraz had a relatively incident-free game - he didn't bat - he did come under mild scrutiny for fluffing a golden chance to stump Moeen Ali early in his innings. Ali went on to score 61 off 33 balls, bringing England to within six runs of victory.
Misbah confirmed that going forward, Rizwan remains the first-choice wicketkeeper but insisted Ahmed had a future with the side. "It's totally wrong," Misbah said when asked if the game was Ahmed's farewell. "We told him that performances aren't judged on the basis of just one game. He worked hard throughout the tour, did well in the side matches and kept well. We have two keepers at the moment, and Rizwan is our No. 1 choice; he is doing great in terms of performance and enjoys our utmost confidence. And Saifi (Ahmed) right now is our second choice. He has done great in the past and can still contribute in the future."
Ahmed was Pakistan's captain in all three formats until he was relieved of his duties in October last year after a sustained dip in form. He was also dropped from every format and was demoted from Category A to Category B in the PCB central contracts. When Pakistan had to pick a larger group of 29 players for the England tour, he was called up as a back up to Rizwan.
Pakistan next international assignment is in October with Zimbabwe visiting them for a white-ball tour.