If you play like a tiger, you feel like a tiger
As if merely saying these self-prophetic words was not enough,Sarfraz Ahmed put them into action in his very first World Cup match. Often described as the dark horse of Pakistani cricket, he blitzed his way to the top, scoring49 runs from 49 balls and taking 6 wickets against South Africa. Becoming only the second player in World Cup history to have taken 6 catches, matching Australian batsman-keeper Adam Gilchrist’s recordis a feat to be treasured.
Scoring only 1 run from 10 balls in a warm-up match against Bangladesh, he was excluded from all five of Pakistan’s subsequent games. Having being mercilessly teased by the UAE media for practising one-handed catches on both sides but then missing a crucial one against New Zealand in December 2014, in this match he struck back by catching South African batsman HashimAmla low on his right side. On receiving the Man of the Match Award, his post-match statement declaring that it felt like a debut all over again, showed true grit that outflanked all the acrimony over his earlier exclusion.
Sarfraz first came to the notice of the UAE media during the Pakistan-Sri Lanka series in December 2013. He spent ample time on the periphery of the team, shoring up bench strength. To his credit, he returned for the UAE domestic season in the early summer of 2014. He began playing in a T20 league just as the IPL was taking place in the region, but refused to be distracted by talk of missing out on the glamour of that tournament and spoke of nothing else but his desire to do well.
His immediate resolve was to get into the PCB conditioning camp that was to be held in Lahore later that season. After reaching his goal, he went on to score his maiden Test century in a subsequent tour of Sri Lanka.
Instructed to open the batting for the first T20 against New Zealand in Dubai last December, he was asked how he felt about it. His response was that he would do what was required of him. Coach WaqarYounis described Sarfraz as ‘…Coming out of his shell in the last few months, because he has been given the freedom to play as he plays.’
His aggression is somewhat controlled when interacting with the media but having observed him playing football with his teammates at Sharjah stadium, it is apparent that he has a competitive streak and gets frustrated at losing.
His insistence on speaking in Urdu following the win against South Africa, opened up a whirlwind of compliments online. His multiplying fanbase feels that his stand for his native language, has brought back a much-welcomed sense of pride after Pakistan’s earlier WC losses.
Fellow scribes from Pakistan tell me that his biggest strength lies in the fact that even when home in Karachi, he continues playing, be it at street level or otherwise. It is this latent humility that has stood him in good stead with fans and journalists alike. During press chats in the UAE, he has shown himself to be approachable, even if his responses are laced with the usual diplomacy.British media has praised him highly, with the UK’s Telegraph describing him as ‘Test-class keeper-bat.’ An English county contract can surely not be far behind.