'It was tough to absorb getting dropped from the team' - Sarfaraz Ahmed
Former Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed has said he was disappointed by his abrupt exclusion from the national set-up but was able to quickly shift his focus to domestic commitments.
Sarfaraz was sacked from the captaincy role in the aftermath of Pakistan's T20I series whitewash to Sri Lanka in Lahore last year amidst Misbah-ul-Haq's first assignment as head coach and chief selector of the side.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was shoved away from the line-up with Babar Azam instated as the white-ball captain while Azhar Ali was declared in charge of the Test team.
From being the undisputed leader of Pakistan for over two years to losing his spot in the side, Sarfaraz commented that the surprise move was initially hard to understand.
"It was tough to absorb getting dropped from the team despite being a regular member," he told reporters in a video chat.
However, Sarfaraz busied himself with a stint for Sindh in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where he regained some batting form.
"But during that period, domestic cricket was underway and I didn't get enough time to dwell on this [being dropped]. While I was out of the national side, I now had the chance to focus my attention on domestic cricket and then PSL began."
"In the last three-four months under quarantine, I have been able to work on my fitness to make sure I am ready whenever an opportunity arrives."
Following a prolonged period of absence from the international scene, Sarfaraz has now been picked as part of an extended squad for the England tour. He will be accompanied by Mohammad Rizwan, who serves as the first-choice wicketkeeper for the team.
Sarfaraz likened his competition with Rizwan to the healthy rivalry between Moin Khan and Rashid Latif in the 1990s for the sole wicketkeeping position and conceded his back-up status.
"Mohammad Rizwan has been playing well so he's obviously first-choice but I'll also be there and intend to make the most of any opportunity."
When asked about the existence of any awkwardness in the dressing room as he returns to the side as an ex-captain, Sarfaraz denied he treated himself or his compatriots any differently in the past.
"During my time as captain, I never behaved differently or superior to other players. I never emerged as an invasive authoritative figure in the dressing room so I don't think there will be any problems when I return to the side because I did not place myself above others."
The 33-year-old was optimistic about his chances of excelling in England, drawing from his previous experience of playing Test cricket in England.
"Touring England is generally tough so you need extra preparations but I also have the experience of playing Tests there in 2016 and 2018," he said.
"I have an idea of the conditions and will try to perform to the best of my abilities."
Pakistan managed to level the two-Test series in England in 2018 1-1 under Sarfaraz's captaincy. They are now set to play three Tests and as many T20Is against the hosts in August-September.