SARFRAZ Ahmed has received a resounding vote of confidence from Sir Vivian Richards — arguably the greatest cricketer of his era — who urged Pakistan cricket chiefs to keep faith with the doughty wicket-keeper/batsman as national captain for the 2019 World Cup.
In an exclusive interview for Dawn, the West Indies legend — who instilled fear in the hearts of many a bowler with his intimidating style of batting during a glittering international career from 1974 to 1991 — and who is the team mentor of Pakistan Super League franchise Quetta Gladiators, categorically stressed that Sarfraz is the obvious choice as Pakistan captain in all formats.
“When you can win the ICC Champions Trophy out of nowhere then, who else? We didn’t give Pakistan a chance. I can’t see anyone else as the [Pakistan] team leader [in the lead-up to next year’s World Cup],” Richards said.
“Just think of it. To comeback after losing that first game [in the Champions Trophy] against India and beat the same team so comprehensively in the final is a certain mark of improvement. And when you can do and go all the way to the final then the captain should be given a lot of credit he deserves,” he emphasised.
“And to be fair, I believe when I see around in Pakistan, I can’t find anyone who can motivate the players and get the best out of the team. Maybe people might think being so close to Sarfraz at Quetta Gladiators, I am being biased but when I do really think then I feel there is no other guy than Sarfraz.
“The motivating factor Sarfraz brings is tremendous. I love his attitude and the way he goes about his job when the chips are down in trying his best to lift the team. People say he is aggressive but to it one of his attributes in my opinion. To be honest when I see around in the PSL, I don’t see anyone else having the same passion or virtues that Sarfraz possesses,” he continued.
“Even before I came to Quetta Gladiators, I had seen Sarfraz being proactive and always trying to do things differently when he batted and I love the fearlessness in his approach to leadership because he reads the game very well.
“To be fair, Sarfraz will obviously have his bad days [as leader]. People must respect and understand that because he is an individual who wants things to happen; and [in doing so] you, at times, are going to fail,” Richards underlined.
Although Wednesday happened to be Richards’ 66th birthday, the former West Indies skipper expressed his gratitude to the franchise for giving him a wonderful surprise with a party late on Tuesday night at the team’s hotel.
“It was an emotional occasion because apart from the team members, my family was also there to celebrate. We all had a great time. It couldn’t have been better,” Richards said before turning his attention to pay tribute to the franchise.
“Well when you come into an environment it has to be the management basically one looks at first. I know the owner, Nadeem Omar, and head coach Moin Khan whom I have known for quite sometime now but I didn’t play against him. But it is just the sort of camaraderie and the relaxation he [Moin] and the owner have shown has not only made me feel at home but the entire squad. You know it’s just like a family environment we have at Quetta Gladiators,” he remarked.
“The owner is one of the nicest individuals I have met and judging by his hospitality and the way whole team reacts and they are like brothers to him. There’s never an impression that ‘I am the boss and you are the player’ stuff because everyone is treated the same way,” Richards stated.
“It makes me nicer to be working with a great set of people around the Quetta camp. It’s privilege to be here with the Quetta team members and the friendly environment they bring to the table. The spirit within the squad is translated into performances in the field since we back each other and enjoy each other’s success. It looks everyone is so relaxed and that’s what I like about,” he added.
Richards recalled the brief time he spent when the PSL final took place in Lahore last year.
“I always looked touring Pakistan which is a wonderful country. I made some magnificent friends over the years you know the Miandads, Imran Khans, the Wasim Akrams and all other guys who are great people. I look forward to coming again this time too [if Quetta make to the playoffs].
“And of course I played against Abdul Qadir and if Shane Warne is better than Abdul Qadir then I must say Shane Warne must be hell of a bowler given the problems when Qadir played against us,” the legend concluded.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018