Pakistan’s World Cup 2019 campaign has not gone according to plan. Unless of course the plan was to be sitting second-bottom on the points table after five games above only the ‘mighty’ Afghanistan.
In the space of a quintet of games, skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed has gone from being Captain Marvel to being the captain of Titanic.
The Buffer Zone resident is now not just the face of Pakistan Team, his face —mouth agape and exhaling — is also the most in-vogue muse in Pakistan’s meme-making fraternity.
Some 6,000km away, the Pakistan Cricket Board is sharpening its knives amid public clamour for heads to roll. No prizes for guessing whose head stands out the most at this point.
But as any PR guru would say, no situation is hopeless; there are only people who have grown hopeless.
If Sarfaraz wants to be remembered as the Champions Trophy-winning captain rather than the captain of a sinking ship, this is what he needs to do:
What else could be the number one thing on the agenda? Nothing can be salvaged if the Green Shirts don’t win all of their remaining five matches of World Cup 2019. A four-game winning streak starting tomorrow will not only dull the memory of what has happened until now, it will also give the team a fighting chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Good thing is that at least three of their four remaining matches are winnable, although you can never be sure with the way Pakistan are these days. But barring New Zealand, surely South Africa, Bangladesh and Afghanistan don’t strike the same level of fear as whom Pakistan have already faced.
You do not get to win by repeating your mistakes and hoping that the problems will get solved on their own. Some of Pakistan’s shortcomings have been rooted in their team selection and composition. By now, it’s crystal clear who the biggest underperformers of Pakistan’s disastrous World Cup 2019 campaign are.
Even if the team is doomed and failure is inevitable, let a new set of players take the rest of the blame. Sticking with what has not worked yet will only exacerbate things.
The nature of Pakistan dressing room is such that there will always be rifts and bickering, even in good times. In the not-so-good times, you can be certain that it will not be a pleasant place to be in.
While a captain should be free to dish the 'hairdryer treatment' to his failing side, it should not be leaked to the media. The very least Sarfaraz and co can do is to present a united front and discourage the speculation of 'grouping' within the side during World Cup 2019.
It isn’t just about winning either. The yawning mouth and protruding belly has made Sarfaraz look like a lazy captain, which is a tad unfair. The two issues have been targeted by critics in hindsight but neither can be held responsible for why the bowlers are bowling short, batsmen are gifting wickets or fielders are dropping lollipop catches at World Cup 2019.
It’s done its damage though. To undo it, the best Sarfaraz can do is to be the best version of himself and guard his troops as actively as he can. Another route would be a captain’s knock. In one of his upcoming World Cup 2019 matches, perhaps, he could promote himself up and bat till the very end to leave that as his lasting image in the fans’ minds.
No matter how accomplished a captain, none have won multiple ICC trophies for Pakistan. Even the great Imran Khan won just that one World Cup. By that argument, Sarfaraz is done on that front (read what transpired on June 18, 2017).
However, the high point of Imran, now the prime minister, became the defining act of his career, probably because it was his final act as well. Sarfaraz needs to remind the fans of his own achievement, which is at least on par with the 1992 feat as it came against India.
How does he do that? When this happens globally, athletes write heartfelt articles or make documentaries where they break things down to fans. It could go a long way in presenting a softer image to fans, who could mellow down at the sight of their beloved captain now addressing them with his hat in hand.
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