CHANDIGARH: A powerhouse of talent. A prodigy. A rare mix of grace and aggression. The words used to describe the teenager – now a 22-year-old man – who was supposed to take the world by storm were never enough.
But Sarfaraz Khan belied those expectations, ending up as an enigma, as lack of fitness, the shift to Uttar Pradesh in 2015 for ‘greener pastures’, and an ACL injury in 2017 put a question mark on a promising career – one that he has breathed fresh life into by making a roaring comeback against all odds.
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After spending a cooling-off period of one year upon his return to Mumbai, the swashbuckling middle-order batsman made 301 not out, 226 not off, 78, 25, 177, and 6 in his last six first-class innings in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy.
The talent was always there, but Sarfaraz had made a few changes in his approach towards the game. As per Sarfaraz, “his mindset towards the game has changed”.
“During the cooling-off time, I did a lot of introspection. I worked on my fitness a lot, and I ensured that I would grab whatever opportunities come to me. I was not picked for the first couple of Ranji matches, but I knew that I would get my chances deep down.”
“In my comeback match against Karnataka I scored an unbeaten half century (71 not out) in the second innings. That knock gave me the confidence that yes, I belong here. There was a resurgence of self-belief in me,” Sarfaraz told TOI from Dubai.
Sarfaraz had shown, occasionally, flashes of brilliance in white-ball cricket. Since his U-12 days, Sarfaraz had an appetite for big scores, and now he has shown that hunger in his comeback.
“I don’t want to be known as a white-ball specialist. I want to thrive in all formats of the game. My father (Naushad Khan) had invested so much in me, and I can’t just let it go. It’s not redemption for me, and I don’t want to prove anyone right or wrong. I want to excel in the game that I love,” said Sarfaraz.
After a resounding success at the first-class level, the 22-year-old is eying a good outing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
With former India captain Anil Kumble at the helm, supported by assistant coach Andy Flower, Jonty Rhodes as their fielding coach, and former India Test opener Wasim Jaffer as team’s batting coach, Kings XI Punjab have a stellar support staff.
“We have the best support staff in the tournament. All of them are legends of the game. I am just trying to pick their brains. Every day is a learning curve for me,” said Sarfaraz. Sarfaraz is having a great time, especially with Jonty Rhodes. He said: “I have learned so much from him in the past weeks. His techniques are so unique. He made the sessions so exciting and fun. I have improved a lot as a fielder under his watchful eyes.” This is Sarfaraz’s second season with KXIP for the aggressive Mumbai batsman.
Like last year, he is supposed to play the role of a floater in the middle over.
“I can bat according to the situation, and play anywhere in the middle order. Last year I batted at No 3 to 7. This time around, I am given the finisher’s role, and hopefully, I will be able to do justice with the confidence coach and captain have shown in me,” he said.
On playing under the new captain, he said: “I know KL (Rahul) bhai since RCB days. He is always involved with the team. Even in the nets, if he notices something, he will come to you and tell you upfront.
Sarfaraz has endured one too many swings of misfortunes in his career so far, but given the talent he has, a good IPL season can do wonders to the youngster.