When Pakistan captain – Sarfraz Ahmad stepped on to the field to bat in the second Test of the recently concluded series against Australia in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan were precariously placed at 57-5. The wounds of drawn Dubai Test had not healed and under a clear blue sky of Abu Dhabi his team was in deep water. In that hundred yards distance from the dressing room of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi to the middle of the pitch, a thousand thoughts must have ran through Sarfraz’s head. He must have asked himself: ‘Am I too hard on boys? Am I too aggressive? Do the journalists from Lahore hate me? Am I the victim of conspiracy? 57-5 – is it really happening?’ Tongues started to wag after the drawn Dubai Test against Australia and Sarfraz was aware about that. While sharing his thoughts in a TV interview he said: “Even if you don’t want to hear negative things, somehow they still manage to reach you.” Success in Abu Dhabi Test was more than just a victory for Sarfraz. After the match, while talking to Ramiz Raja, he said: “Captain’s own performance reflects in his captaincy; my performance with the bat had a positive impact on my decision making as a captain.” After hearing these thoughts cricket fans must’ve thought the confident ‘white ball’ captain Sarfraz had cemented his job in the longer version as well. But the success was short-lived. The recent 2-1 loss against New Zealand in Pakistan’s own backyard – UAE has once again opened the discussion regarding his competence as a Test captain. The most worrying aspect of this debate is that it is turning into an ethnic issue than a cricketing one. One cannot help but recall the days when Misbahul Haq was the captain of Pakistan Test team. The poor soul was criticized for winning Test matches in the UAE. Yes, for winning matches! Winning Tests in Emirates was considered a done deal; therefore, Misbah never got his due credit for his feats. Imagine if he had lost those Test series – heavens would have fallen, for sure. Sarfraz’s frailty was evident when he took the dice on a book launch ceremony in Karachi. He said “Without producing positive results it is useless to lead the team as captain.” Perhaps, he should take a leaf out of Misbah’s book on how to deal with the criticism. At times one gets the impression that he has already given up on Test captaincy and he’s just waiting for the inevitable to happen. And this could prove to be extremely dangerous for Pakistan cricket, especially, when the team is about to play a tough series against Proteas in South Africa. “To captain a team in a Test match is totally different to limited overs cricket, sometimes you feel you have aggressive field placing, but a person watching from outside looks it differently” said Sarfraz recently. It is widespread impression that the result of Test series against South Africa will decide the fate of Sarfraz’s Test captaincy. That said, considering the history of Pakistan’s performances in Test matches in South Africa, one fears that the ‘inevitable’ is just round the corner. Published in Daily Times, December 26th 2018.