Shoaib Malik was impressive as stand-in captain in the 4th ODI at Johannesburg. He rotated his bowlers well, set attacking fields, and gave the bowlers the license to go for the kill.
Undoubtedly, Malik is a far better captain than Sarfaraz. And I didn’t say it just because of this one-off victory. While Malik may not be consistent in his batting, his cricketing mind offers a lot in terms of utilizing the attacking bowling options Pakistan possesses.
Pakistani pace bowlers Amir, Shaheen, Hasan, and Shinwari are all attacking bowlers. In addition, Shadab the leggie is also an attacking spin option. So, it makes no sense to go defensive and not make use of the wicket-taking options.
I vividly remember Sarfraz putting up slips in the Champions Trophy that resulted in many wickets taken thanks to good aggressive bowling.
But of late Sarfraz’s captaincy has been poor. He has gone way too defensive – there are no slips positioned or a slip taken out immediately after a boundary. Moreover, he often panics when the pressure is on.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy flaws were on display in the 2nd ODI when he brought in Shadab late. And South African commentator Graeme Smith rightly pointed it out.
The situation has become a bit dicey for the suspended Sarfraz.
According to unconfirmed reports circulating in the media, Hasan Ali and Amir are not happy with Sarfraz’s attitude. And the dressing room environment under Sarfraz was not all that good after Pakistan failed to defend 318.
The question in every Pakistani cricket fan’s mind is: Can Malik overthrow Sarfraz to become the captain at 2019 Cricket World Cup?
This is an interesting question. But as of now, there is no clear cut answer. Even the Pakistan Cricket Board hasn’t clarified or named the captain for the upcoming World Cup.
It all depends on how Malik and his team performs in the remaining four matches. If Pakistan wins the ODI series and the T20 series plus Mohammad Rizwan, the replacement wicket-keeper batsman performs as well, it would make the situation more complex for PCB to make a decision.
For now, Sarfraz would be hoping for Rizwan to fail. In the 4th ODI, Rizwan came to bat two-down so if he gets a chance, my gut feeling is he will do well as the wicket-keeper batsman is in good form.
The problem with Sarfraz is not just his captaincy. His consistent low scores have been a bigger worry. What irritates the most is his hiding in the dressing room always demoting himself in the batting order.
The Cricket pundits are left scratching their heads as to why Sarfraz doesn’t come to bat higher up the batting order.
Malik averages 34 between 29 Jan 2018 and 29 Jan 2019 with 3 fifties. As you can see, his numbers are not great. But the thing is: people are tired of Sarfraz be it Pakistani Cricket fans, the Pakistani Media and quite possibly some current players as well.
And Sarfraz has only himself to blame. His bad captaincy in the field, leadership from behind, and poor handling of media have undone him.
Malik, on the other hand, has won everyone with his leadership in the field, adept handling of media – his post-match presentation talk impressed Mike Haysman (the interviewer) who said “well spoken” to Shoaib’s thoughtful answers.
For a change, the interviewer was in a position to ask more questions from a Pakistani captain and get different answers.
The stand-in captain has got a great PR game. Plus he is well-groomed which is something we cannot associate with Sarfraz.
I’m not implying that Sarfraz should be able to speak good English. All I’m saying is: he must at least speak well in Urdu – his mother tongue.
In short, Sarfraz has everything to worry about as his competitor (Malik) is a strong one.