The world came crashing down quickly for Sarfaraz Ahmed who spearheaded Pakistan to a record 11 straight series wins in the Twenty20 format and bagged 29 wins in 37 matches on the bounce before stumbling against a second-string Sri Lanka side in Lahore that prompted the new management to drop the axe on him.
His own torrid run in all formats weakened his grip on the post. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a press release stated the reason behind removing Sarfaraz was his "overall drop in confidence and form".
The 32-year-old averaged 41 before assuming the leadership role and that average plunged down to 25 after he took over the reins of the Test captaincy. Gradually, he lost his instinctive approach to batting. In his early days of career under Misbah's command, he used depth of the crease and improvisation to great effect by advancing down the track, standing out of the crease, playing wristy shots in front of the square, but that natural flair started to fade away as the gruelling demands of captaincy got to him.
That being said, he always seemed to relish the opportunity of captaining the T20 side. The game was tailor-made for his temperament and he found the template for success in the shortest format. He used aggressive tactics which were well executed by the pack of canny bowlers. Babar Azam helped him considerably in topping the Twenty20 rankings table as well.
Sarfaraz guided Quetta Gladiators to its first Pakistan Super League (PSL) title this year and the franchise has always made it to the knockout stages under his supervision. Thus, dropping the axe down, owing to one hiccup at home, doesn't quite add up.
The charlatans in the PCB management forgot how Sarfaraz steered the team out of a rut and then led them to victory in ICC Champions Trophy. They may have persisted with him until next year's Twenty20 World Cup and then reassess performance in the limited-overs format.
He might have been quick in making field changes but he didn't come across as a charismatic leader. Andile Phehlukwayo incident was an embarrassing faux pas that could have been easily avoided.
More importantly, it was a big ask for him to stabilize the ship after the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in Test format.
The Test captaincy was an opportunity to show his tactical acumen but a 2-0 drubbing handed by Sri Lanka in their second fortress UAE followed by New Zealand's 2-1 triumph and a 3-0 demoralizing loss against South Africa earlier this year did not bode well for the keeper.
The livewire on the field ostensibly couldn't exert his influence in Mickey Arthur's tenure as the locus of control appeared out of his reach. In the upset hammering against a seemingly second string Sri Lanka side, reverting to Umer Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad wasn't a popular move as it was time to inject fresh blood bearing in mind next year's Twenty20 World Cup.
Having said that, if it was not his call to bring back the duo then the time was ripe to make some noise about his supposed lack of say in team selection.
Also, when he finally decided to bat higher up in the order in an attempt to lead from the front, the move was too little, too late. The fitness concerns around the 32-year-old didn't help his case either with occasional slip-ups in the wicket-keeping duties.
The World Cup campaign oscillated between extreme highs and lows. The lows were too low and the highs weren't that emphatic. Despite a late awakening, Pakistan didn't make it to the semifinals even though they managed equal points as New Zealand at the end of round-robin. In hindsight, there was one thing that stood out in champions trophy 2017 and this year's marquee tournament - Sarfaraz had something to do with the remarkable resurgence.
Sarfaraz's own underwhelming performance didn't help the team either as eight runs against West Indies in a shock defeat, 12 against India, and single figures against New Zealand, South Africa and Bangladesh painted a bleak picture for the former captain and it might have harbingered loss of captaincy in the 50 over format as well.
Sarfaraz Ahmed was often seen venting at his teammates during pressure situations. His on-field scathing reprimands may well have dented the bowlers' confidence and were purporting that things are under his control, even though many crucial games kept slipping away, for instance, in the 2018 Asia Cup.
The taskmaster was often spotted micromanaging bowlers and perhaps sometimes it gave the impression of as if Sarfaraz was overdoing the talking. It was off-putting to see Sarfaraz berate his compatriots and chiding his fellows who were also playing at the highest level.
Babar Azam embraced by former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed © AFP
The winning combination that pulled off an impressive feat of eleven series win is disrupted and so it remains to be seen how things pan out before the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next year.
Babar Azam is now set to mark the start of a new epoch in Pakistan cricket with the tour of Australia. He is resolute to build on the success that Sarfaraz achieved in the shortest format.
“I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities. Sarfaraz has led the side in the shortest format by example and it is my responsibility to take forward his accomplishments so that we remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side,” Babar said.