Sarfaraz Ahmed in the Pakistan Cricket team (T20I)

Pakistan team has just arrived in Australia for three T20Is. Which will start from 3rd November which will then be followed by two Test matches starting from Nov 21st.

The Pakistan T20 team will be led by batting sensation Babar Azam. While the test side will be under the hood of the veteran batsman Azhar Ali after former wicket-keeper/captain, Sarfaraz Ahmed was relieved of his duties from all three formats while being replaced by Muhammad Rizwan with the gloves.

While the removal of Sarfaraz Ahmed seemed to be coming from a long way, especially with his dismal performances and lack of impact with the bat of late, an uproar has been created demanding justice for the captain of the defending PSL champions, Quetta Gladiators.

His removal from the Test and One Day sides was perhaps inevitable and is quite undebatable, especially with Muhammad Rizwan scoring heaps of runs in both formats. The main problem lies in the impact of his presence in the T20I side. I try here to dissect his numbers in the T20 format.

Sarfaraz Ahmed Statistics

Statistics for Sarfaraz Ahmed by Batting Position

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Sarfaraz Ahmed stats by Batting position

It’s no surprise that Sarfaraz Ahmed has never been at home while batting down the order whether in the One Day or T20 format and his number reflect that. Especially so in the T20 format. And the most worrying part is that his strike rate falls considerably as he bats down the order. Something that is opposite to what you would expect to see. But at the same time, his numbers at the top of the order are staggering. As solid as he seems at the top of the order despite his troubles picking variations at times (in his defense, a general problem for Pakistan of late) the way he plays spin in the middle order and his knack to rotate the strike, he perhaps still should find a place in the Pakistan side.

Batting Averages for Pakistan in the Last Two Years

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Best Batsmen for Pakistan in the Last Two Years

One of the more unfortunate things for Pakistan is that three of the top 5 batsmen with the highest averages for Pakistan in the last two are no longer in the squad. These were key players that helped put Pakistan number 1 in the ICC rankings.

If you filter the numbers for a minimum of 5 matches played, Sarfaraz Ahmed falls as the 4th best batsman Pakistan have had. While his strike rate is the second highest of the top 7 with the highest averages. Although it is important to note that his average falls 27% from Shoaib Malik at number 3.

Batting Averages for Pakistan in the Last One Year

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Best Batsmen for Pakistan in the Last One Year

Sarfaraz’s struggles have been prominent in the last one year where he’s barely made par. And that with a significant drop in his strike rate. While this was the primary reason for his omission, his overall impact as a player and as captain was arguably greater than what these numbers show. Here is a dissection of these innings:

In these 10 matches he only came in to bat 6 times. In one of those he didn’t face a ball. While in another, he came in to bat at number 7 with 6 overs to go.
Of the remaining 4, Pakistan won one where he made his best in this time period of 34 and his partnership with Hafeez won Pakistan the match. The rest of the three matches were the most recent against Sri Lanka where all three times he came in to bat on a slow wicket where he got a start in each with failure to convert.

The prominent omission from the future plans of the PCB seems to be Muhammad Hafeez. Who, despite the common belief that Babar Azam is the best batsman for Pakistan in T20Is, has shown with numbers that he has been by far, the go-to guy for Pakistan in this format.

Replacing Sarfaraz Ahmed

For those of us who’ve seen the National T20 cup in Faisalabad, it seems obvious that the player of the tournament, Muhammad Rizwan would deserve a place in the T20 side. The Peshawar born wicket-keeper/batsman scored 215 runs in 6 matches at an average of 43 for KP.

Sarfaraz on the other hand scored 131 runs in 5 matches at 26.20. Finishing as the joint second highest run scorer for Sindh, 5 runs behind Khurram Manzoor. Both played at nearly the same Strike rate in the tournament. While Rizwan is probably the best keeper in the country, Sarfaraz is certainly not far behind. Especially with him working particularly on his fitness of late. As a batsman, both lack the ability to hit quick cameos. Sarfaraz Ahmed however, definitely has the edge while batting in the middle order. Which is due to his knack of keeping the scoreboard ticking and keep the spinners on their heels.

Captaincy

The numbers as a captain for Sarfaraz Ahmed both in domestic and in international T20s have been staggering. Apart from 11 consecutive series wins, a record on its own, under Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan won 78.4% of their matches. Which is the second highest in the history of T20I cricket, behind Asghar Afghan’s 80.4% which mostly includes Associate Nations.
Pakistan won series in England, West Indies, New Zealand and a tri series against Zimbabwe and Australia in Zimbabwe apart from wins at home and in the UAE.

Sarfaraz also has the highest win percentage in the PSL. Under his captaincy, Quetta Gladiators have played three out of four finals and have won the latest edition of the tournament. Quetta Gladiators, under the captaincy of Sarfaraz, also have the highest win percentage in the PSL. They have won 26 out of 43 matches at a win percentage of 61.9%.

Finally for the argument that it was the players who won the matches and not the captain. I would argue that the same can be said for Imran Khan, in the 1992 world cup. He scored 185 runs in 8 matches at an average of 30.83 while picking up 7 wickets at 35.9 a-piece. Getting the best out of his players and using them tactically at the best place possible is the main job of the captain. Something Sarfaraz has done well throughout his T20 career. It would be arrogant to write off the high number of wins with different teams as mere coincidence.

The replacement of Sarfaraz Ahmed has good arguments on both sides. I just argue that it’s not wise to replace an excellent captain on a minor slump in form. Especially with the World T20 less than a year away. And if he was going to be replaced, it should have be with someone who has experience of captaincy and has a resume to back up his elevation to captaincy. The National T20 has shown how much the current captain, Babar Azam needs to learn and has cemented how good a limited overs captain Imad Wasim is. I would just hope that for Pakistan’s sake, Babar can learn on the job quick.

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