Losing a match against arch-rivals can strike a damning blow to the morale of a sports team. Two losses – and in less than a week – only double the damage. And that is the damage that Pakistan cricket captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is fighting to repair.
With calls within Pakistan growing for Sarfaraz to be sacked as skipper and be called home early from the ongoing Asia Cup tournament, the 31-year-old finds himself on a rather sticky wicket. The performance of him and his team in the tournament so far has not been much to write home about. And while a rather rickety win over Afghanistan in the Super Fours served as a wake-up call, two back-to-back defeats against India may have compelled Sarfaraz to wave the white flag even before the final. “Their skill-level is high, ours is not quite therem,” he had said during the post-match ceremony on Sunday night. This was right after a crushing nine-wicket defeat for his team.
And while the defeat was the second – India defeated Pakistan by eight wickets just four days before, Sarfaraz is now hoping his team manages to resurrect before the title clash this Friday. “By the final, we will improve. The next match for us is a do-or-die,” he said.
The next match for Pakistan is indeed crucial and even if Sarfaraz is predicting his team to improve by the title clash, a place in the final is not yet confirmed for his side. Bangladesh have not yet faced Pakistan in the tournament and have been rather unpredictable. The team cruised to a 137-run win in the Asia Cup opener vs Sri Lanka before surrendering to Afghanistan by 136 runs. A defeat against India followed in the Super Fours and the side would now be eager to face the Men in Blue in the final – at the cost of Pakistan.
It is this unpredictability of Bangladesh that Sarfaraz would look to blunt come Tuesday. A win could – to a certain small degree – silence critics back home. And if his side indeed does make it to the final, and if it manages to upstage India thereafter, his tale may yet have a fairytale ending. Not many are betting on it though with the kind of form that Team India is currently in under stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma.