Mumbai batter Sarfaraz Khan fulfills his tryst with destiny in Test against England

When Sarfaraz Khan walked out to fight a battle on behalf of India against the might of England’s bowling, it seemed to be a moment that was predestined. With an impressive assembly of big scores under his belt in the domestic tournaments, he had been knocking for a long time on the doors of Test cricket. It was a matter of time before he was given the chance which finally came on Feb 15th, 2024.

In an article written almost two years ago, on 24th June, 2022, had predicted that Sarfaraz will play for India in the near future. On Thursday that prediction came true. It took longer than expected, but as they say, better late than never.

It was an emotional moment for the entire Khan family as Sarfaraz was given his cap by former India captain Anil Kumble. His father, cricket coach Naushad Khan was in tears and hugged his son tightly. It was batting ace Surya Kumar Yadav who called Naushad and insisted that he should be present when Sarfaraz was given the cap. Yadav pointed out that in his own case it was thrilling to have his parents around him on that great day so he told Naushad that he must be there at any cost.

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For the son it was a fitting culmination of a long and arduous trek through the wilderness before he finally fulfilled his tryst with destiny.

Capitalised on opportunity

Once he got the opportunity, Sarfaraz capitalised upon it and played a marvelous innings. He scored 62 runs off 66 balls with nine 4s and one 6 before he was run out. His dismissal was not due to his own fault. His partner Jadeja called for a quick single but then changed his mind and sent him back. But Sarfaraz failed to return to the safety of his crease. A direct throw rattled the stumps.

It was sheer bad luck to be dismissed in that manner but nevertheless Sarfaraz should be satisfied with what he accomplished in his first Test innings. His fifty came in 48 balls and was the joint-fastest 50 by an Indian cricketer on debut alongside Hardik Pandya’s half century which came against Sri Lanka in 2017.

It was a great sight to see Sarfaraz playing with confidence, using his feet and timing his shots to perfection. If he keeps going he should become the backbone of the Indian middle order in future. The centuries by Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja pulled India to safety after a shaky start. The way they approached the task was commendable.

But the performance of Sarfaraz should silence his critics who have often harped upon his overweight physique. Conveniently they forget that some of the most famous players in cricket history have also been overweight.

Famous overweight players

Former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga was known for his portly figure. England’s prolific batter Mike Gatting was almost as broad as he was tall. England captain Sir Colin Cowdrey played in 114 Tests and earned success for England but he was overweight too. Englishman Colin Milburn was another. Australia’s leg spinning genius Shane Warne used to wage a constant battle to keep away the excess weight.

Last year Sunil Gavaskar had rightly said that when it comes to weight issues, a cricketer has to be able to play the game well. He need not be a fashion model.

Focused on fitness

A few years ago Virat Kohli told him that there were no doubts over his skills, but his fitness was making the selectors hesitate.

Thereafter Sarfaraz began focusing on his fitness as well as his game. He began working out and jogging. He gave up eating sweets and junk food. He has got his reward after a long struggle and this should have built a sense of maturity into him.

His father cum coach Naushad Khan knew for many years that his son would be successful one day. Sarfaraz once said that his father is 97 percent coach and 3 percent father. But today Naushad is a proud 100 percent father. His eldest son Sarfaraz is playing for India in Test matches while his younger son Musheer recently played for India in the Under-19 World Cup. It may not be long before the two brothers play together in the senior team and keep India’s flag flying high.

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