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An interview with RCB star Sarfaraz Khan

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Sarfaraz_Khan_India_Royal_Challengers_Bangalore_RCB_cricketAn uncapped Indian player, Sarfaraz Khan’s retention for Rs.1.75 crore by the Royal Challengers Bangalore was the most surprising element of the mini auction of sorts, which took place late last week in Mumbai. The star youngster was one of the three players retained by the franchise, along with Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

The now 20-year-old debuted for RCB in 2015 and put up impressive performances, scoring 111 runs at an explosive strike rate of 156.33. The following season, however, the Mumbaikar was made to warm the bench on grounds of fitness after playing just five games. Having worked on his fitness, Sarfaraz would have hoped to make a comeback in the 2017 season, but fate had other plans. Just two days before the league, the hard-hitter tore his right knee ligament in a practice game.

In an exclusive chat with HoldingWilley.com, Sarfaraz gave his view on what could be the reason behind his unexpected retention.

“I was not too confident about my retention but the management showed faith in me. I have delivered for RCB every time they have given me an opportunity. Few days ago, Rahul Dravid sir called me to Bangalore to play against the U19 World Cup squad and also to share my experience of playing in the U19 World Cup with them.”

“I scored a 90-ball 130 in the first game and followed that up with another 40-ball 70 [against the U19 team] and the RCB team management was watching those performances by me. Suddenly the team management called me asking if I am willing to be retained, and given that the franchise helped me immensely when I was injured, I couldn’t help but say a prompt yes,” an elated Sarfaraz said over the phone.

Having injured himself only two days before IPL 2017, it was difficult for the in-form batsman to cope with the fact that he would be missing in action for the second year successively. He recalled his days of struggle, and gave insights on how his father played a role in his early recovery.

 

“The credit for everything goes to only and only Allah. After the Almighty, credit goes to my father, who is also my personal coach. When you have to sit at home for six to eight months, it is only parents who lend you emotional support. After my injury, my doctor had forbidden me from even holding the bat for the next four months. But papa showed me courage to beat my injury and long story cut short, the bat was back in my hands in two and a half months only, and in another four months, I resumed playing.”

 

“Injury hona badi baat nahi hai, (to be injured is common) but how you revive your form is what matters. I performed well in the practice game hence I got selected,” the right-hander said.

The name Sarfaraz Khan first made news when the then 12-year-old broke the record for the highest score in the Harris Shield inter-school tournament by scoring 439 off 421 balls with 56 boundaries, 12 of which were sixes. Following that, he scored 211 runs in six innings at strike-rate of over 105 in the 2014 U19 World Cup. His performances were noticed by the RCB franchise, who bought him in 2015 and the star kid grabbed the opportunity with both hands in his very first match. The then 18-year-old scored an unbeaten 45 off 21 balls with six fours and one six.

For Sarfaraz, to be retained alongside Kohli and de Villiers, two greats of modern cricket, is still not sinking in.

 

“I think this is the first time when an uncapped player has been directly retained. If you put on the television while having dinner, probably the first thing you will find on the sports channel is the batting highlights of the world’s two best batsmen, Kohli and AB. I am nothing in front of them yet I have been retained alongside them. It is unreal.”

 

Sarfaraz was particularly thankful to the support that RCB’s team manager Avinash Vaidya lent him during his injury period. He remembered how Vaidya checked up on him frequently when nobody else did.

“RCB management paid for the entire cost of my operation and I will be indebted to them for life. Lekin ek jan jisne bahot zyada mujhe support kiya who hai Avinash Vaidya. (The one person who supported me the most from the team management was Avinash Vaidya)”

“For six months he would keep calling me every two days to check up on me and my recovery process. Avinash sir (whom we fondly call George) would cheer me up and lend me immense emotional support. In fact just 20 days after my operation, the RCB team management kept me with them so that I do not feel left out of the tournament. That is why I decided that I will remain with RCB only,” the Mumbai-born batsman recalled.

He also mentioned Kohli’s WhatsApp message to him, motivating him to not lose patience and stay strong.

 

“After my operation, Virat sir sent me a very lengthy message on WhatsApp which was very, very sweet of him. He explained to me that whatever happens is for the good and eventually things will fall into place. His message was very motivating.”

 

Sarfaraz replicated his IPL success in the 2016 U19 World Cup, in which he scored 355 runs in six innings at an average of 71 and a strike-rate of 87. However, his ultimate aim was to win the World Cup, something he was unable to achieve, and is still one of his regrets.

“The only aim of my life was and is to win a World Cup for my country. I tried a lot but I could not live this dream. I have been going to the NCA (National Cricket Academy in Bangalore) as a child. When you enter the academy, the first thing you see is the picture of the World Cup winning team. That picture always made me dream to win a World Cup, so that my photo would also be featured on that wall. I couldn’t achieve when I played the World Cup but I hope the boys bring the cup this year,” he said.

Rahul Dravid has been the silent man behind the transformation of many young cricketers from U19 team to bigger levels. And like many others, Sarfaraz was also thankful to Dravid for having coached him to perfection.

 

“I have learnt and matured a lot under Dravid sir’s coaching. Bharat Arun sir too has taught me quite a few things. During my U19 days, I learnt multiple things from multiple coaches and applied the best to myself.”

 

The 2018 U-19 World Cup will comprise 48 matches across seven venues in New Zealand. India, led by young sensation from Mumbai, Prithvi Shaw, play their first match against Australia on Sunday, January 14. Sarfaraz, who has played three U19 World Cups, believes that the team could not have got a coach better than Dravid.

“Dravid sir is the best thing to have happened to the team. The present squad boasts of star bowlers like Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel, and in my three years of playing the World Cup, I can vouch that the present bowling attack is our best ever.”

When asked who plays the most number of pranks in the RCB dressing room, the youngster was quick to single out himself, later adding that everyone in the team engages in pranks, fun and laughter.

“Me! I am the most ‘shararti’ in the dressing room. (giggles). Actually all of us play pranks. Virat Kohli, Mandeep Singh, everyone. Team mein koi chhota bada nahi hai (we don’t play pranks according to age and maturity). All of us have fun together,” the T20 sensation signed off.

 

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