Stats, Style, and Skills
Sarfaraz Khan's hunger for success
In these days of a surfeit of limited overs cricket, where the focus is on players who excel in these formats, it is rare to come across a young cricketer who is seen as a specialist Test prospect. That in itself makes Sarfaraz Khan special.
Add to this the manner in which he bats, based on supreme technical skills and a monk-like concentration as well as the eye rubbing and mind boggling stats against his name, and it is easy to see why he is rated so highly. Sunil Gavaskar, a master technician himself in the traditional format, is all excited when talking about him while advocating his inclusion in the very Test match India plays following the tour of England.
To be candid, given his achievements in first class cricket Sarfaraz should have already been given his Test cap, even if admittedly the middle order has a house full board on it and there is competition from a couple of other youngsters. But none of them has the label Test cricketer attached to his name as firmly as Sarfaraz.
No one even talks about him as an ODI or T-20 cricketer. He has been born for and made for the traditional format. For a 24-year-old to establish himself as such makes him exceptional. But why will he not be a much talked about cricketer with the figures that he has notched up. In 25 First Class matches he has amassed 2530 runs at an astonishing average of 81.61. His eight 100s including a highest score of 301 not out, makes it a three figure knock every three matches.
This underlines his insatiable appetite for runs, highlighted by the fact that his average is next only to Don Bradman's 95.14, among batsmen who have scored over 2500 runs. These are stats that one just cannot ignore.
Neither can one ignore Khan's latest figures which seem to suggest he is getting better and better. In the just concluded Ranji Trophy season Khan was the star of Mumbai, making the title round where they went down to Madhya Pradesh scoring 982 runs with four hundreds. This made him the first player to hit 900 plus runs in successive editions of the premier national competition.
In 2019-20 (the Ranji Trophy was not held last season because of Covid) Sarfaraz notched up 928 runs. Moreover his average of 82 in the Ranji Trophy across 23 games is the third highest for any player who has scored 2000 plus runs with only Vijay Merchant (98.35) and Sachin Tendulkar (87.37) running up higher averages across 87 editions of the Ranji Trophy since 1934-35.
The stats, and the style with which he has run up such an amazing record, confirm his class and skill but it is his rise from humble beginnings that underlines Sarfaraz Khan's hunger for success. It's really been a roller coaster of a ride and as he admitted after his century in the Ranji Trophy final he would not have been there but for his beloved "abbu" (father). Hailing from a modest background Sarfaraz Khan accompanied by his father travelled by local trains to the grounds for practice and playing matches.
"Abbu and I started my cricket journey from absolutely nothing. When I started playing cricket I dreamt of scoring a century for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. That was fulfilled. Then I had another dream of getting a hundred in a Ranji final. That is why I got emotional and had tears in my eyes because my father has worked very hard. All the credit for my success goes to him. Without him I would be nothing. I have had my troubled times but he has never left my side," said Khan. His father Naushad Khan also doubles up as his coach.
After two successive seasons of 900 plus runs Sarfaraz Khan is firmly on the radar of the national selectors. However he is focussed on the present. "As far as selection to the Indian team is concerned I am working hard. Right now my focus is only to score runs. Every person has dreams. It will happen if it is written in my destiny," he said.
Whether it is destined or not, the fact remains that selectors Sunil Joshi and Harvinder Singh had a chat with Sarfaraz after his century in the Ranji final and were full of praise for his batting. To be candid, it will be impossible to overlook Khan any further. What more can a player do to warrant national selection? He is an ideal blend of talent, technique and temperament. He has all the strokes and an impeccable defence. He can play according to the situation and has an insatiable appetite for runs. With these credentials it is surely only a matter of time before he is given his Test cap.
Sarfaraz Khan has already worn the Indian cap having represented the Under-19 team in the World Cup in the UAE in 2014 where he impressed in getting 211 runs from six games at an average of 70.33. Two years later he finished as the second highest scorer in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh with 355 runs from six matches, frequently rescuing India from faltering starts.
Clearly Sarfaraz is the man for the big occasion as he waits for his biggest reward – the India cap which should come his way when India take on Bangladesh in the Test series in November.