The memory of Pakistan's Champions Trophy win last June is beginning to recede. It should have been the springboard to their World Cup preparation, but the failure to qualify for the Asia Cup final on Thursday has opened up areas of concern they may have been forgiven for brushing aside even until a year ago.

Among those is Sarfraz Ahmed's captaincy. Pakistan don't have a ready replacement yet, and in any case, with the World Cup just eight months away, a new leader is hardly a sensible solution. Especially considering that this side beat all odds to clinch a global title 14 months ago under the same man. But, is it just a case of a crisis of confidence, as Mickey Arthur pointed out, or is Sarfraz making poor decisions on the field?

Against Bangladesh, he let Mushfiqur Rahim off the hook by removing Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi eight overs into the game, though both left-arm pacers were in superb form. They had blown away Bangladesh's top-three, with the kind of intensity that suggested more wickets were round the corner.

Junaid, finally given a game, had already shown what Pakistan had been missed by persisting with Mohammad Amir. He got the ball to swing late, used his bouncer judiciously, and created awkward angles from around the stumps. Young Afridi used his height to hit the hard lengths and keep the batsmen fending from the crease.

Bangladesh were 19 for 3, and Junaid's first spell read 4-1-6-2. But he was suddenly taken off, and in came Hasan Ali, with a half-volley that was creamed through cover for four.

Even as Afridi ran in from fine leg to bowl the next over, Sarfraz stopped him and introduced Mohammad Nawaz's left-arm spin. The foot was well and truly off the pedal now. Having given away only two boundaries in the first eight overs, Pakistan leaked six in the next eight.

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We haven't performed well at all - Sarfraz
We haven't performed well at all - Sarfraz

More spin was in store, as Shoaib Malik, and Shadab Khan, who has looked slightly undercooked all tour because of a groin strain, came on. This played into Bangladesh's hands, and Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun fashioned a match-winning 144-run partnership.

Sarfraz later accepted that his captaincy was to blame for the loss, but wouldn't divulge reasons for these decisions. He may have taken them on an impulse, but there was no other voice to counter him. Malik, the most-capped player in the squad, has been captain once, and was even banished from the job unceremoniously. But he is often patrolling the deep, and isn't in Sarfraz's immediate vicinity to discuss tactics.

Sarfraz is also hot-headed at times, getting in the ears of his team-mates when there's an odd short delivery or a misfield. If it's a dropped catch - and there have been plenty this tournament - the roof comes off. Playing cricket under a captain like that can be pretty draining. Sarfraz is clearly his own man - which isn't necessarily bad - but since he flies off the handle a little bit, he could benefit from outside counsel. Like when he chose to do away with the slips soon after the Junaid-Afridi burst.

It resulted in a reprieve for Mohammad Mithun in the 11th over, when he was troubled by late movement from Hasan Ali. But instead of the edge being lapped up, it raced to the third man boundary. Sarfraz kept the cordon empty even when he brought his premier legspinner on to bowl.

Shadab had been ineffective against India, largely because Pakistan could not put up a strong total, and Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma felt no pressure during the chase. Here, Pakistan had Bangladesh at 55 for 3 in the 16th over, and in the absence of a slip, Mushfiqur enjoyed the privilege of attempting a reverse and getting away with it. These were glaring signs of allowing the game to drift.

The bowling and fielding tactics aside, a frazzled Sarfraz also burnt a review even though the bowler barely looked convinced. Mithun was on 1 when he was struck on the pads with an arm ball from Nawaz. It seemed to be drifting down leg stump. Sarfraz himself was moving in that direction to collect the delivery, and yet he made a late call to challenge the not-out decision.

Sarfraz has looked short on ideas with the game slipping away from Pakistan twice this past week. Instead, he was left waiting for the opposition to make a mistake, and neither Bangladesh nor India were in the mood to oblige. It hasn't helped that he's going through this while also short on runs. An accomplished batsman, with a talent for accumulation, there have been calls for him to come up the order, and though he's done it a couple of times in this Asia Cup, he ended up giving his wicket away.

All things considered, Sarfraz admits to "captaincy failure" but doesn't think this is the time to make wholesome changes. "We are obviously not feeling good. As a team, we have not done well. Our performance has been very poor. As a player, I have done really badly too. I should have done better. We were poor in every facet of the game, but we need to back this core group.

"There is pressure for any captain when you don't perform and the team loses. I'm fine if there are one or two changes, if the selectors feel domestic performers should be rewarded, but the core group has to be backed. There is no need to press the panic button yet. Yes, we've lost, but this isn't the time for drastic steps"

The tapering of Sarfraz's own form, along with Fakhar Zaman's, and the loss of Amir's swing, Shadab's bite and Hasan's intensity are all concerning. Malik's runs helped alleviate some of those problems, but in the absence of another experienced player - Pakistan took a bold call to leave out Mohammad Hafeez - was really telling on Wednesday.

Pakistan play Australia and New Zealand in the UAE next, in matches that are crucial to putting together their World Cup jigsaw. Sarfraz believes he still has enough time to turn the team's fortunes around, but he'll also know that slip-ups, like the one in the Asia Cup, will not be tolerated. At least not in the subcontinent.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo