Sarfraz Ahmed lived up to the expectations of nearly 20m Pakistanis by lifting the downtrodden ODI side to Champions Trophy triumph, but he thinks his new challenge, to fill former Test captain Misbahul Haq’s shoes, is going to seriously test his abilities at the helm.
Sarfraz, who led Pakistan to a major 50-over silverware after a gap of 25 years, and that too by beating arch-rivals India in the final of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy final last month, was appointed captain of the national team for the longest format of the game on Tuesday.
While talking to ESPNCricinfo, Sarfraz said that success in five-day format demands patience. “It will be very different to ODIs and T20Is," said Sarfraz. "Misbah bhai did so well for so long and he really built the side up, a side that had some great success and was very stable. So it will be a real challenge to follow on from that.”
Still, he hopes to emulate his limited-overs success in Test cricket. “Tests anyway are not easy. You need some serious patience. I will try and do as best as I can. I've had some success with the limited-overs captaincy and hope I can do likewise with the Tests."
Pakistan’s next Test assignment will be hosting Sri Lanka in a series in October, which will be their first after Misbah and veteran Younus Khan retired following series victory against West Indies, and Sarfraz believes the team will feel their absence in the middle-order.
“If you look at the Test side right now, there are only a few players settled in the playing eleven," he said. "In the middle we used to have Misbah and Younus with whom we knew, whatever position we were in, they could get us out of it. If you batted first, you knew with them that we could target 400. That gave a sense of comfort.”
However, the Karachi-born wicketkeeper-batsman believes Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq must now take the responsibility in the middle order. “Asad will move up the order in Tests now. Azhar will be there. These guys are the type of guys I hope, I feel, can take Pakistan along like Misbah and Younus used to."
Sarfraz, who once led Pakistan U19 team to World Cup victory, is now the national team's skipper in all formats, and the 30-year-old believes his gradual ascension has helped him develop his abilities to lead.
“I'm probably one of the only players in Pakistan history who has captained from junior level all the way up," he said. "I've captained at club level, U19, in every format, at domestic also. I've come step by step. So of course this is a challenge but I'm prepared for it. My responsibilities have increased so I will have to work harder on my fitness but I've been working hard on the keeping and batting as well."
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