It is hard to imagine a more stressful job than Sarfaraz Ahmed’s. As captain of Pakistan’s national cricket team, he must brave bruising encounters with India, a far bigger country that happens to be just as mad about the sport, and a bitter rival off the pitch, too. The team leader must also weather Pakistani fans, who at the drop of a catch or fall of a wicket can shower love or dump torrential scorn with equal gusto.
These days the job is harder than ever. This is not only because the four-yearly World Cup is under way, featuring ten national teams. Nor is it just because tensions with India have been riding especially high since February, when a terrorist bombing in Indian-held Kashmir sparked a tit-for-tat military escalation with Pakistan that brought the neighbours to the brink of nuclear war. In recent times Indian cricket, much like the Indian economy, has inexorably pulled ahead of the Pakistani game, propelled by higher revenues, hugely fatter salaries, more professional management and keener promotion of young talent.