Sarfaraz Ahmed's belligerent ton ensured that Pakistan emerged on top © Getty Images (File Photo)
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s belligerent ton ensured that Pakistan emerged on top © Getty Images (File Photo)

Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman, is in a rich vein of form. He carried that into the first Test against Australia in Dubai as he smashed an aggressive ton to showcase his ability. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that Sarfaraz may be Pakistan’s answer to the Akmals — Kamran, Umar, and Adnan.

In his last eight international innings, Sarfaraz Ahmed has recorded six scores over 50. The two occasions where he failed to record a half-century, he managed to score 34 and 32. This rich vein of form bodes well for Pakistan and comes at an opportune moment for them as they build up for the ICC World Cup 2015. Sarfaraz has cemented his spot with some good performances with the bat and has ensured he is the front-runner for the wicketkeeper’s role in the Pakistan team.

Sarfaraz made his international debut back in 2007. Though there wasn’t a doubt over his wicketkeeping, it was his batting that was questioned. The modern format demands the stumper to have good batting ability. It was that need that pushed Pakistan to select Kamran Akmal, despite repeated errors behind the stumps. Umar Akmal, a makeshift option, was forced to don the gloves in the limited-overs formats. Though he wasn’t up to mark, Pakistan persisted to allow them to play the extra batsman.

And, it isn’t that they haven’t tried other options. Since 2007, seven wicketkeepers have represented Pakistan across formats. Zulqarnain Haider’s international career took a dramatic turn after a bright start as he fled from the side in 2010. Adnan Akmal had established himself for Test cricket until an injury saw his ouster earlier this year. Mohammad Salman made a brief entry following the 2011 World Cup, while Shakeel Ansar managed only two games. Sarfaraz thus has had to compete with the Akmal brothers for his spot.

Since Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year, Sarfaraz has shown a marked improvement in his batting. A First-Class average of over 40 shows that he has the ability; it was only a question of bringing that to the international level, where he had not unleashed his potential. His latest knock against Australia has also shown a different side to his batting. Coming in to bat at the fall of Misbah-ul-Haq’s wicket, Sarfaraz attacked the bowling and turned the tide for Pakistan. It was due to his knock that Pakistan could dictate terms after grinding for a major part of their innings.

Recently, he was also promoted to open the batting in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in the absence of Mohammed Hafeez. He handled it quite well and looked much better than some of his teammates. Bringing that aggressive side to his batting has opened up possibilities ahead of the World Cup. Even when Hafeez gets back, Pakistan can still consider him as an option at the top.

Following a long search, Pakistan finally seem to have that elusive wicketkeeper-batsman who is good both behind the stumps and in front. Sarfaraz’s performances may keep Kamran and Adnan out of the side and would relieve Umar of the burden in ODIs. Though Pakistan have struggled in recent times, he has been one of the few bright spots.

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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)