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Grit Over Glitter: Sarfaraz Khan’s Story is More Than Just Runs

From prodigy to perseverance: Years of domestic dominance and setbacks fueled Sarfaraz's drive. His father's unwavering support became his bedrock, proving that success often blends talent with resilience

Indian saint Paramhansa Yogananda had once said- “persistence guarantees that results are inevitable.” The saying stands particularly true for the newest entrant in the Indian Test team, Sarfaraz Khan. He debuted against England in the third Test of the ongoing series with a fine knock of 62 on the first day. That he took just 66 balls to make those runs is a testament to the strong resolve and confidence the youngster exuded when he came in to bat, considering the precarious start to the Indian innings and an anxious wait due to the partnership between Rohit and Jadeja.

However, the path to this defining moment was far from easy for Sarfaraz. His relentless grind through the domestic circuit not only tested his skills but also his coach’s (his father) patience. At a time when many players opt to skip the Ranji Trophy for IPL preparations, Sarfaraz’s diligence serves as a beacon of inspiration, emphasizing the significance of continuous hard work.

Sarfaraz is a prodigy who first found his way into the limelight back in 2009 at the tender age of 12. His record-breaking feat of 439 runs in the Harris Shield, a tournament synonymous with legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, set the stage for Sarfaraz’s cricketing journey. He then caught the attention of the selectors in 2013 when he was selected for the Mumbai Under-19 team. Sarfaraz’s terrific performances earned him a well-deserved call-up for the India Under-19 quadrangular series.

There was a reason that many experts at the time felt the young boy was meant for greater things. It was his innings at a pivotal moment during the series, where Sarfaraz showcased his mettle with a match-winning 66-ball 101 against South Africa. This left an indelible mark on the cricketing landscape and the stellar performance paved the way for his inclusion in the India squad for the Under-19 World Cup in UAE in 2014. His efforts shone at the event too as he notched up 211 runs in six games with an impressive average of 70.33.

Soon after, he secured a spot in the Royal Challengers Bangalore team in the 2015 IPL auction. His selection meant that he became the youngest player to grace the tournament. The subsequent year saw him emerge as the second-highest run-scorer in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, amassing 355 runs from six matches and playing important knocks in challenging situations.

But what fans of the game may not know is before all that glitter, Sarfaraz toiled hard for 15 years with unwavering dedication. He rose before dawn and spent hours honing his batting skills on dusty pitches of Mumbai maidans. Along with his brother Musheer, India’s second-highest run-getter in the recently concluded U-19 World Cup, he would practice on a pitch prepared outside his home when the access to a ground was not possible.

His father, Naushad, had a modest beginning himself and faced many financial challenges. However, this did not deter him in pushing his sons to achieve their dreams. Fast forward to the present, and Sarfaraz’s remarkable tale unfolds not just through his prolific batting but also intertwined with the unwavering support of his father.

Before the young batter could receive his coveted India call-up, Sarfaraz’s journey faced further setbacks. He was picked for the 2022 Bangladesh tour but was dropped when the senior players returned to the team. Thereafter, an indifferent IPL performance tested his mettle. Not to be bogged down, Sarfaraz continued to pile on mountains of runs in domestic cricket.

In the last 3 seasons, Sarfaraz has had stunning figures in the First Class with over 900 runs in two seasons and averages over 100. His run-making spree had every cricket expert and former players rooting for his selection in the team. But ultimately, he was picked after smashing a 161 against England Lions for India ‘A’ team. In the absence of many senior players, selectors just couldn’t ignore him anymore!

Despite Sarfaraz’s exceptional average of 70, the arduous journey involved playing 45 first-class games before donning the Indian jersey – a testament to the challenges faced by the prodigious talent. The frustration of the wait was palpable in his father’s words as he was interviewed after Sarfaraz got his Test cap. Yet he emphasized finding a newfound perspective, a way to appreciate the journey now that it had reached its destination.

Interestingly, Sarfaraz’s debut innings (a half century), mirrored the patience and the resilience he has cultivated over the years. Waiting behind a formidable partnership between Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, he entered the Niranjan Shah Stadium to face England’s Mark Wood with a packed leg-side field. The challenge was real, but Sarfaraz embraced it with composure, ducking and defending the short balls with precision.

He didn’t have to wait long before spin was on from both ends, and he relished the opportunity. His free flowing stroke play ensured that India maintained an upper hand even as Jadeja slowed down nearing a hundred. The way Sarfaraz played, he deserved a century! Unfortunately, his innings studded with 9 boundaries and a six came to an end via run out, a wrong judgement from Jadeja that was later admitted on his social media account.

As the prodigious batter continues to make strides in international cricket, his story becomes a testament to the fact that success is often a product of both talent and the enduring spirit that accompanies it. It will be now on him to keep his feet firmly on the ground and continue to work hard as he has done over time to ensure a long career at the top level.

Siddhaarth Mahan

is a keen observer of the sports arena. Siddhaarth has been a state level cricketer. After a Master’s in Journalism, he has written several articles on sports and cinema. Now works in the Hindi film industry as an actor and filmmaker.

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