It was in the year 2006 that Pakistan won the U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka under the leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed . Batting first Pakistan got bowled out for just 109 runs. Sarraz himself made 15 runs, the third highest of the Pakistan innings and shared a vital sixth wicket partnership of 29 runs, the highest of the Pakistan innings. Indian team which included star players like Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Chestarwar Pujara were bowled out for just 71 runs.
By that time cricket teams around the world had realized the importance of having a wicketkeeper in their team who is not only good behind the stumps but can play at any position according to the situation. Australia had Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka had Kumar Sangakara, South Africa had Mark Boucher and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had just arrived on the international stage to handle the job of a wicketkeeping batsman in the Indian team.
Pakistan, meanwhile, were still struggling to find a permanent wicketkeeper batsman. They had tried many players but none them was exceptional with the bat or the gloves.
A good wicket keeping batsman gives balance to the team. And it is a fact that the above mentioned teams have won a number of matches just because they have the luxury of a good wicketkeeper batsman. An example which is still hard to digest is the Sydney Test in 2010 where Kamran Akmal dropped four catches which resulted in Pakistan losing the Test match.
Moving forward, Sarfraz Ahmed a wicketkeeper batsman from Karachi was called in the national squad for the second time after failing to make an impact in his debut series. Sri Lanka were leading the three match series 1-0. In the third Test at Sharjah, Pakistan were chasing a total of over 300 on the last day of the Test match. Sarfraz who usually bats at six or seven was sent in at number five. He then played a vital knock of 48 runs of just 46 balls to bring the chase back on track. It was this knock which eventually made it easier for Azhar Ali, who went on to score a century, and the captain Misbah-ul-Haq to win an unforgettable Test match.
Sarfraz did not stop here but he went on to pile up more runs in the next few series. He topped the runs chart in Pakistan tour to Sri Lanka; made a century against Australia in Dubai and another match saving ton in the second Test against New Zealand.
Rightfully Sarfraz was selected in the World Cup squad. Considering the fragile batting lineup, Umar Akmal, (a makeshift wicketkeeper batsman) was given priority in the first four matches. Eventually in the fifth pool match against the mighty South Africans, Sarfraz finally got the chance of making his World Cup debut following a consistent poor show from the opener Nasir Jamshed.
Sarfaraz grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Playing as an opening batsman, he scored 49 runs and then took six catches behind the stumps to equal a world record with Australian Adam Gilchrist of most catches as in a world cup match. He was rightfully declared the man of the match.
It was late but eventually the right call to play Sarfaraz and he highlighted the importance of a reliable wicketkeeper batsman.