‘Sarfraz the best option for all three formats’
From being Pakistan’s ‘man for a crisis’ behind the stumps to running a multi-purpose sports academy, former Pakistan captain and wicketkeeper Moin Khan has silently travelled a long way in his career as a cricket player, expert and now, coach. Here, Pakistan’s World Cup-winning ‘keeper writes his first column for Dawn.com.
Ever since Pakistan decided to name three different wicketkeepers for the different versions of the game, there has been a lot of discussion on this new ploy. Personally, I don’t think this move was necessary. The selectors have picked Shakeel Ansar, who undoubtedly performed well on the domestic circuit recently, but, he has been playing for a long time and there have been no real ‘outstanding’ performances from him in first-class cricket. To give someone a place in the national team based on a year’s performance is not justified. Sarfraz Ahmed, who was already in the team, is a very good wicketkeeper and batsman and they could have utilised him in the Twenty20 squad, as changing up the players so often can disturb the composition of the team, making it difficult for them to find good rhythm. I am all for the inclusion of players who do well domestically. It shows that the selectors are keeping an eye on the youth for the future but Ansar does not even have age on his side. It is unfair to the rest who have been performing well consistently to bring in a player based on just one season’s performance. I have respect for his talent and ability but Sarfraz and Adnan have been performing well and could have been used in the Twenty20 format as well. Now that he has been given this chance, he should be able to show that he has the potential to play T20 cricket. However, to stay in the team, he will have to perform, otherwise it will be very difficult for him to cement his place.
I am a big admirer of Adnan Akmal’s game. He has been playing well in the Test side, but needs to improve his batting if he is to be considered for limited-overs cricket. The problem with his batting is his inability to play big strokes, perhaps because he is physically not very strong. Players like Sarfraz and Kamran Akmal have shown their stroke-making prowess. Kamran, especially, has produced several innings in times of need which have helped the team. It may sound harsh, but it seems like he (Adnan) doesn’t have the batting skills for ODIs and T20s. He is a composed batsman but his array of strokes is very limited. As a wicketkeeper, he can play in all the three formats but his batting skills restrict him to Tests.
Adnan is doing very well in the Test team but if he unable to perform consistently, it could cost him his place and it may open the door for Sarfraz, who is one wicketkeeper-batsman for all three formats. For his domestic side, PIA, Sarfraz has done well over a period of time, across the three formats. Another ability that sets him apart is his experience as the captain of Pakistan’s Under-19 side. He is a team man, who understands the workings of a side and not just as a captain. As a player, too, he is always looking to help the captain. Because of the recent shuffling of wicketkeepers (ever since Kamran’s ‘departure’), both Adnan and Sarfraz have been unsettled. If given a chance, Sarfraz can also fit into the opener’s role in the limited-overs game. If he is utilised in the top order, he can be a great asset for Pakistan.
These boys have only been playing for Pakistan consistently for nearly a year, so to pick one out is very difficult. While Adnan’s technique is very sound, Sarfraz is breathing down his neck and could take away the Test spot from him. In my opinion, Sarfraz is the best glove-man for Pakistan. Each player has his or her own flaws and technical problems but they must work hard to overcome those flaws. If your technique isn’t correct, you need to work on it. No two ways about it. If, for instance, the way you gather the ball is not right, it is imperative that you improve your technique. At the end of the day, being a ‘keeper, it is the most important part of your game. In this respect, all Pakistani ‘keepers are hard-working boys, which is heartening to see. There is so much competition amongst them that they have to make themselves stand out.
During my playing days, there was an on-going competition between me and Rashid (Latif). It was a healthy competition, mind you. Whenever Rashid was picked, it was obviously very difficult for me to take in. However, I would always tell myself that I should concentrate on improving my performance to make a comeback. I would go back to the drawing board, try to find areas I could improve and then work on them. Eventually, selectors would take notice and I would be able to make a comeback. Hard work pays. It was one of the main reasons behind my 14-year career as a Pakistan international.
Moin Khan played 69 Test matches and over 200 one-day internationals for Pakistan from 1990 to 2004.