Sarfaraz scored yet another hundred in the ongoing Ranji Trophy tournament ©Getty
Sarfaraz Khan took his time to celebrate his eighth first-class century, pulling out multiple poses for the camera. The swinging bat roar, the ‘I’m there’ pose, the conventional acknowledgement with the show of the bat and the Sidhu Moose Wala-style thigh slap.
“I did that in the 153 knock (quarterfinals) as well, but the cameraman turned the camera elsewhere,” revealed Sarfaraz of his final pose. “So everyone told me the celebration didn’t show up on TV. So I said ‘koi baat nahi, phir aa jaayega’ (no problem, it will come up again) “.
Such audacity. He is riding on a wave of confidence, and of a lot of runs.
He was his usual self on Wednesday. The usual runs, the usual laughter, the usual ‘abbu’ mention and the odd tear – quintessentially Bollywood; predictable yet gripping and entertaining, with his bat as much as his speech.
He yet again led his team’s batting and bailed them out from a precarious position on a tricky surface in the final to help them to a formidable first innings score of 374, with a well-paced 134. The stuff of dreams, he said, of his teary century celebration.
“You all know the roller-coaster ride I’ve had, if not for my father, I wouldn’t have been here,” he said with a choke in his voice at the end of the second day’s play of the Ranji Trophy final at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. “When we had nothing, I used to travel with my father in trains. 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 scoring a hundred in a Ranji final when my team needed it the most. That is why I got emotional after my century 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. He has never left my side.
“Many times, I feel bad thinking about him, because he has always stood by me. He is very happy. In life, some dreams get fulfilled even if it takes time, but I’m happy I have my dad who has bailed me out of tough situations.”
His innings which included some unconventionally dour play as much as some high-risk but natural laps over the wicketkeeper’s head, exhibited a new dimension of his game, being able to shift to the extreme ends of the batting gear.
“My plan was to score a fifty when I was batting with Shams (Mulani), but once he was dismissed (off the second ball of the day), I thought there could be a collapse, because the ball was also moving around quite a bit… I relied more on timing rather than going for the big shots. The situation was such that I had to take care of the team, the other players batting with me and score runs for myself as well. So it was a difficult situation for me.
“It’s only when I played the scoop shot (to move from 88 to 92) did I think about my hundred. I know Tushar (Deshpande) very well. He keeps saying ‘yes, yes’ (he will hang in, but ends up playing a big shot and gets out). So I thought I need to get a little closer. It’s fine if I get out, if I’m able to hit it, all my effort (will bear fruit).”
“I have a mindset that to score a century, I need to play at least 200 balls. I can’t have that mindset that this can be achieved by hitting sixes. I can score big only after playing many balls. I tried to play three-four overs from each bowler. Once I start getting used to the pitch and know their plans, my practice and preparations are such that I know the runs will flow because I have all the shots.”
Two seasons running, with a mountain of runs to show, Sarfaraz is announcing himself loudly. National selectors, Sunil Joshi and Harvinder Singh, had a long chat with the batter at the end of the day’s play, of which Sarfaraz reveals, they were impressed by his tact of not playing into the plans of the opposition.
“It was great to talk for the first time with the selectors. They were just telling me how the opposition had blocked my sweep. But I could score so big because I avoided playing that shot, that I showed patience. They told me that I played a nice innings and didn’t come under pressure despite my scoring area getting blocked.”
Even as his team finds themselves slightly behind in the closely-contested final, with Madhya Pradesh ending the day on 123 for 1, Sarfaraz is oozing confidence. “Lead toh lenge hi lenge (we will take the lead no matter what happens). Even if we don’t take the lead, it’ll surely be tough for them to bat in the fourth innings on this pitch.”