'Me and my family along with Sarfaraz have given our entire life towards this dream.'
Ever since he returned for his second innings in Mumbai cricket, Sarfaraz Khan has proved to be unstoppable with the bat.
On Thursday, June 23, 2022, Sarfaraz stood tall when the Mumbai middle order crumbled around him, scored 134 to take his side to 374 in the Ranji Trophy Final.
Earlier this Ranji Trophy season, the 24 year old stroked a brilliant 153 against Uttarkhand in the quarter-finals. Sarfaraz posted a partnership of 267 off 385 balls for the fourth wicket with Suved Parkar, who hit a double century on debut, and powered Mumbai to a mammoth 725.
Accordong to Sampath Bandarupalli in espn.cricinfo, Sarfaraz's batting average in first-class cricket is the 'second-highest for any batter with 2.000-plus runs in the format.' 'The only batter with a better average is Donald Bradman, who has 28,067 runs to his name at an average of 95.14,' points out Bandarupalli.
Sarfaraz is the highest run-getter in this season's Ranji Trophy with a whopping 937 runs. He scored 928 runs in the previous Ranji Trophy.
Alongside him in this elite club of batters who have scored over 900 runs in two consecutive Ranji Trophy seasons, states Bandarupalli, are Ajay Sharma and Wasim Jaffer. Here's hoping that Sarfaraz has a better run in international cricket than those two giants of domestic cricket.
"All credit goes to my father," Sarfaraz had said after his fine knock against Uttarakhand at the KSCA ground in Alur on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
His father Naushad Khan, who is also his coach, reveals that Sarfaraz's successful showing with the bat is all due to the hard work put in by father and son in the last couple of years.
Naushad believes Sarfaraz has matured as a player and his only focus is now to improve his batting with every outing.
He admits that he erred by making Sarfaraz quit Mumbai to play for Uttar Pradesh in the 2015-2016 season, but points out that the mistake also proved to be a good learning experience.
Naushad hopes Sarfaraz can continue to score centuries consistently and achieve the family's long-standing dream of seeing their son wear the India cap.
Rediff.com's Harish Kotian spoke to a jubilant Naushad on his son's record-breaking run in the Ranji Trophy. This conversation took place before the Ranji Trophy final. The first of a revealing two-part interview:
What is the secret of Sarfaraz's dream run with the bat since coming back to Mumbai cricket?
Everyone works hard on their gamem but I would say we train systematically. I am with him all the time off the field, I organise all his travels, his training, practice games.
I have even made a practice wicket at home. I take videos of his batting from the training sessions from the matches and I analyse it.
He recently returned from the IPL where the focus was on attacking batting. When he came back from the IPL, I got around 10 days to work on his batting.
You know in May, the pitches in Mumbai are dry and brown as it is the end of the season. I stopped all cricket on the wicket that Sarfaraz was supposed to practice for 2-3 weeks. I told the ground staff to water it regularly, so that by the time Sarfaraz comes the wicket should be green, and the ball should swing and seam.
I used different types of bowlers to bowl against Sarfaraz with different types of balls, sometimes the new ball, sometimes the red ball, from different angles and all that.
After that he used to practice with the Mumbai team in the morning for a couple of hours and then after a couple of hours break, he used to practice his batting at the nets I have built at my home.
In the off-season (the monsoon season) in Mumbai, we used to travel to different places like Agra, where he used to practice his batting and play a match next day and after a couple of days we moved to Mathura, Faridabad, Lucknow, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Jaipur and so on.
These matches at different venues helped him practice against different types of bowlers on different type of pitches in different type of conditions.
That has taken the fear out of him when he plays first class matches because he doesn't give a thought to what type of wickets he will get or conditions or bowlers he will face.
What makes him so consistent? One word to describe Sarfaraz's amazing run...
I would say he is a ziddi (stubborn) player. He is a good student of the game too. He has matured so much, he works so hard on his game now.
If you see some years back, he had this habit of throwing his wicket away easily, but now he is determined to make most of every opportunity.
He constantly talks to me about his batting, he wants to improve every day. He sends me videos daily to analyse his batting, because he wants to improve and take his game to the next level.
Sarfaraz didn't get enough chances for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2022. Did it affect his confidence?
I always tell him play to the merit of the ball and be disciplined in your batting.
Even if you are playing in IPL, don't forget the basics of batting, like throwing your bat without any footwork.
He batted at the top of the order in the few games he played for Delhi Capitals, which was good for him, because when you bat up the order you don't have to attack every ball, you bat according to the merit of the ball and the situation of the match.
I used to tell him other than the net practice with the IPL team, you also do your individual practice along with it. He worked on his shots like the cover drive, on-drive, off-drive and others.
Delhi Capitals were practicing at BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex, north west Mumbai) and my house is very close in Kurla (north east Mumbai) so I used to go and watch his practice.
I used to analyse his sessions and update him daily at night on what was going wrong and where he needs to work on his batting and all that.
Now before this Ranji match against Karnataka, he called me a day before the game saying, 'My batting is not going well in the nets', so I asked him to send me the video.
I studied the video and found that there was a small issue. When we practice at home, we bowl side arm or throw from a short distance, so the batter has to make the initial trigger movement, because the distance is short and the artifical turf is quicker.
So when batting against throwdowns, you need to make the initial trigger movement before the ball is bowled, but when you face a bowler in the nets, you have to make the trigger movement when the bowler is taking the jump before bowling.
What Sarfaraz was doing he was making the trigger movement quite early like he was doing at the nets at home, so I explained to him about what changes were needed and made it clear to him after which he also realised where the problem was.
I told him that it is not a problem if you get out to a good delivery, but be patient at the wicket and play your normal game.
Don't keep the previous match in your mind when you go to bat because sometimes that can lead to overconfidence.
Every match is a new game, so take your time to get settled and get the measure of the wicket and the bowlers.