When he is at home in Mumbai, Sarfaraz Khan and younger brother Mushir are inseparable from their father, coach and warden Naushad. And even when he was not present for the Ranji Trophy final at the Chinnaswamy Stadium to watch his elder son score what he called his best innings yet, Naushad was a constant presence in Sarfaraz’s mind.
After scoring 134, his fourth hundred of the Ranji season, to take Mumbai to 374 in their first innings against Madhya Pradesh on Day Two of the final, Sarfaraz choked with emotion while talking to reporters. In this age of rehearsed, cliched interactions between cricketers and the media, here was a young man not holding back from displaying his emotions publicly.
“This hundred is because of my abbu (father), his sacrifices and holding my hand when I could have been down and out,” said Sarfaraz, struggling to keep the tears away and slowly getting his words out. “Aap sab toh jaante ho mere saath kya kya hua. Abbu na rehte toh main khatam ho jataa (You all know what I have gone through and had my father not been there, I would have been finished by now),” Sarfaraz said, revisiting how he had gone to Uttar Pradesh, unable to find a spot in the Mumbai side, and had then returned to serve a cooling-off period to make an eventually grand comeback in 2019-20.
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“There has been so much of struggle and when I think how my dad dealt with all of it, I get emotional. He didn’t leave my hand even once. My brother put up a status on his cell phone and I could see abbu was so happy. It made my day.”
Sarfaraz, who is made to follow a routine of facing a minimum of 400 balls in a day by his father, said that making a century for Mumbai in a Ranji final had been a collective family dream that he had now fulfilled. He also credited his unbeaten 71 in the second innings in the defeat to Karnataka, at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground in Mumbai in early 2020, for kickstarting his glorious run that is still on.
“In our lives, it’s about all those little dreams that we harbour. The dreams that we (he and his father) have dreamt together. The nearly 2000 runs that I have scored in two seasons since my Mumbai comeback is because of my abbu.
“When I was a little boy, the dream was to wear the Mumbai jersey and score a hundred. When I realised that dream, then the dream was to score a hundred in a Ranji Trophy final when the team is in a precarious position. That’s the reason I was overwhelmed with emotion after the hundred.”
Sarfaraz said that having got out attempting a reverse sweep in the first innings of the semi-final against Uttar Pradesh, he had decided he would stay put at the wicket this time. “This is my best knock in Ranji Trophy as this is the final and it came when the team was in a difficult situation. We were losing wickets when we should not have. My aim was that whatever happens, I will not throw my wicket away even if it means the runs come in ones and twos and I have to play 300 balls instead of 200.”
After the end of the day’s play, national selector and former India left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi spoke to Sarfaraz for about ten minutes. Without revealing other details of the conversation, Sarfaraz said that Joshi had praised him for keeping the runs coming despite MP blocking off one of his strong scoring shots – the sweep.
“He understood that Chandu sir (MP coach Chandrakant Pandit) had asked his bowlers to block my sweep shot and he said that it was good that I could rotate strike even when my pet shot was stopped.”