In June 2022, Sarfaraz Khan‘s name was used in the same sentence as Don Bradman many times. So much so that ‘Sarfaraz Bradman’ was one of the top trends on Twitter (now X). He was 24 then, enjoying a never-before-seen run in India’s first-class cricket. He had just become the first Indian batter to score more than 900 runs in successive Ranji Trophy seasons. As a result, his first-class average rocketed to 82.83 in 25 matches, only second to Sir Don in the list of highest first-class averages of all time. Sarfaraz has had to wait two more seasons to finally earn his maiden call-up and on the eve of the second India-England Test, he is hoping that cap with the BCCI logo sits on his head on Friday.
Sarfaraz is no stranger to hard work. Nothing has ever come easy to him. From fitness-related criticisms to scoring hundreds at will, from Bradman comparisons to being ignored by the selectors for the longest of time, he has seen it all in his career that is not even a decade old. But every time, he has tried to learn. He has made sure to observe the best in the business.
“I like to watch Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sir Vivian Richards, and even Javed Miandad because my dad has told me that I play like him. I watch Joe Root’s batting also. Anyone who is succeeding, I am watching them to see how they are doing it so I can learn and apply it. I want to continue doing this, whether it’s in the Ranji Trophy or playing for India in the future,” Sarfaraz told JioCinema.
The Javed Miandad comparison was only the tip of the contribution that his father – Naushad Ahmed – has made to make his son a quality cricketer. In may ways, he is the real-life hero of Sarafaraz.
“My father introduced me to cricket, and I always wondered why am I even playing. I am an attacking batsman and I used to get out sooner than others and scoring big runs was getting difficult.
“It was disheartening to see others succeed while I wouldn’t be among the runs. But my dad always believed in hard work, and everything I have is a result of that work,” said Sarfaraz.
Difficult days of UP to Mumbai switch
In the 2015-2016 domestic season, Sarfaraz opted to play for Uttar Pradesh after he ran into trouble with Mumbai selectors during an under-19 game.
Sarfaraz said his dad would travel to UP or wherever the team played to watch him bat.
“Even when I moved from Mumbai to UP, he would take flights to come and see me. He would start bowling to me on the terrace or the road itself before selection trials.”Now I realise the impact and importance of those efforts,” he added.
After two modest seasons with UP, Sarfaraz decided to return to Mumbai after gaining a NOC from UPCA and the 26-year-old admitted it was a tough moment for him.
But Sarfaraz said his father was the pillar of strength in this phase.
“When I came back to Mumbai from UP, I was scared if this would bring a halt to my career and I strongly felt there was no future ahead of me.
“But my dad always stood by me. There’s no guarantee in life if you don’t get opportunities,” he said.
But there were opportunities galore for him in Mumbai and his career blossomed there.
Now, Sarfaraz has 3912 runs from 45 First-Class matches at an average of 69.85 with 14 hundreds and 11 fifties.
Even in the red-ball format, Sarfaraz strikes at 70.48, making him a standout performer.
So, how does he score so consistently? Sarfaraz revealed the secret.
“My strength is that I am not easily satisfied. I play 500-600 balls every day. If I don’t play at least 200-300 balls in a match, I feel like I haven’t done much. It’s a habit now.
“If you want to play five-day cricket, you have to stay patient and practice every day. I play cricket all day and that’s why I can stay on the pitch for a long time,” Sarfaraz added.