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Sarfaraz Khan - Rising from the Ashes

Last updated on 23 Mar 2022 | 05:01 AM
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Sarfaraz Khan - Rising from the Ashes

From a 12-year old kid who broke Sachin's record in a Harris Shield game to being India's top run-scorer in the 2016 U-19 World Cup, Sarfaraz made waves at a very early stage in his career

It was back in 2015 when Sarfaraz Khan first came to the limelight in a Bangalore team filled with batting superstars. The sight of a 17-year old taking on the Rajasthan bowlers to the cleaners was such a spectacle that even the mighty Virat Kohli bowed down to him in awe post the knock.

From a 12-year old kid who broke Sachin Tendulkar's record by registering the highest score in a Harris Shield game to being India's top run-scorer in the 2016 edition of the U-19 World Cup, Sarfaraz made waves at a very early stage in his career. However, he couldn't hold on to the spotlight long enough and soon faded away.

Seven years later, he is back in the centre stage. The means for him to get the limelight was scoring runs heavily in first-class cricket. The right-hander has been the second-highest run-scorer in the ongoing Ranji season, with an aggregate of 551 runs in four innings.

It has been a topsy-turvy journey for Sarfaraz from 2015 to 2022. At the same time, he has also witnessed some of his U-19 teammates like Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and others make it to the international stage while Sarfaraz hasn't even been in the reckoning until now.

Ranji Circle

Sarfaraz suffered a major setback in first-class cricket post his decision to shift bases from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh on the persistence of his father-cum-coach. From this point, the acrobatic batter featured in only eight games for the next three Ranji seasons. He realised his mistake and moved back to the team he began his career with.

Having lost a few precious years, Sarfaraz rose to prominence in the 2019 Ranji season. It was a brilliant comeback of sorts for the youngster. Despite Mumbai's poor showing back then, he continued to score big runs on a consistent basis. A tally of 928 runs in nine innings included a triple century, a double ton and a hundred. 

“Jab bhi main peechhe dekhta hoon, mujhe chakkar aa jaata hai, to isiliye main baar baar peeche nahi dekhta hoon (for me looking back is nauseating, hence I never look back). The decision was dad’s. I remember when I was leaving for UP, I was packing and keeping my Mumbai kit aside, there were tears in my eyes as I loved Mumbai so much. I did not think I would ever be able to play for Mumbai again", Sarfaraz had told Sportstar back in 2020.

With India's premier domestic competition making a return in 2022, he kicked things off in style with an innings of 275 against Saurashtra, then followed it up with scores of 63 & 48 against Goa. In Mumbai's final fixture against Odisha, Sarfaraz again stepped up with the bat, scoring 165 and helped his team proceed to the next stage with an innings victory. The 24-year old has been leading the run-charts for Mumbai in consecutive seasons now.

With India's Test side undergoing a transition phase, a few more notable performances from Sarfaraz may well pave the way for him to the national side. He boasts a spectacular average of 77.74 in first-class cricket with 2099 runs to his name. He is also capable of making the big hits as we've witnessed in the IPL though his T20 record hasn't been quite impressive. But the upcoming stint with the Delhi Capitals gives him the perfect opportunity to make amends.

IPL downfall

Sarfaraz' knock of 45* (21) back in the 2015 IPL season was the talk of the town. He signed off the season with another promising innings of 31 (21) against CSK. The young boy's audacious strokeplay and scoop shots earned praise even from the maverick AB de Villiers. However, he disappeared as quickly from the scenes in the aftermath.

Despite starting the 2016 season well, he failed to retain his place in a batting lineup that had stars like Watson, Gayle, Kohli, ABD, Rahul, Jadhav, etc. While he missed out the next season due to injury, RCB continued to show faith by retaining him in 2018. However, Sarfaraz failed to live up to expectations and was later released by the franchise. What contributed to his lack of favour were question marks around his fitness that the skipper Kohli alluded to time and again.

His services were then acquired by Punjab Kings where he had another decent season and also scored his first half-century in IPL. However, a dismal 2020 season and two ducks in two matches last year didn't help his cause. 

The poor phase as well as the not so inspiring numbers in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy meant a fall in stakes for him in the shortest format. He didn't find multiple takers at the latest IPL Auction, going to Delhi Capitals at his base price of 20 Lakhs.

The Road Ahead

Sarfaraz at 24 is still very young and a bright prospect. However, the onus will be on him to shine in the limited opportunities he gets from here on. The right-handed batter has proved his worth in red-ball cricket. Now after a good show in Ranji Trophy, Sarfaraz has a chance to rejuvenate his T20 career and there cannot be a better stage for him than the upcoming IPL. 

"I was born here, I have played all my cricket here, so I like this city."

The fact that the majority of the tournament is being played in Mumbai where he has played most of his cricket will be quite stirring for him. He will also be reuniting with Rishabh Pant, the current Delhi skipper who was Sarfaraz's teammate at the 2016 U-19 World Cup. With Ricky Ponting around, he will have some very good guidance in the DC camp.

"We have grown up watching him (Ponting) play on television. Whenever he speaks, it's quite enjoyable and motivating."

Ever since Sarfaraz was hailed as a future star, we have heard stories of his hard work and dedication in the nets. Even during the entire lockdown phase, his father ensured that he never missed game time in the nets. While the India dream is still a far-off conquest, Sarfaraz knows that a good IPL performance will grab a lot of eyeballs.

Post that, he also has a chance to help Mumbai reclaim the Ranji Trophy when the final phase begins. Thus the upcoming few months will be very exciting with regards to Sarfaraz's future. If he can stand tall and rise to the occasion, then even that big call-up may be just around the corner.

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