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IND vs ENG, 2024: Sarfaraz Khan makes firm impact in long overdue debut

India vs England, 2023-24: Sarfaraz Khan makes firm impact in long overdue debut. Sarfaraz Khan scored 62 & 68 in only test match he played.

India vs England, Rajkot Test_ Sarfaraz Khan scored back-to-back fifties in debut test match _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Sarfaraz Khan scored back-to-back fifties in debut test (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

The news of KL Rahul being ruled out of the third Rajkot Test against England delivered waves of joy and excitement in the heart of Sarfaraz Khan and his family. The lifelong dream of Sarfaraz and Naushad Khan, his abbu (father) and coach, was coming true. 

It’s quite rare that a batter with 3912 runs at an average of nearly 70 in 45 first-class matches has to wait that much before getting his first India call-up, but nothing in Sarfaraz’s career has been child’s play. 

It was around November 2009, when the 12-year-old schoolboy broke into the scene with a record-breaking 439 for Rizvi Springfield against Indian Education Society (Kandivali) in the Harris Sheild inter-school tournament. Grown up in the Mumbai suburb of Kurla, Sarfaraz once went into the Mumbai Indian’s selections and found Mohammad Ashraful and Sachin Tendulkar discussing a technical aspect. 

“I heard Ashraful asking Sachin about difficulties in getting the front foot forward in time. Sachin was instructing Ashraful to watch the bowler’s arm till the last moment before moving his feet.” Sarfaraz spoke about how he later tried the same process and earned success. 

Sarfaraz showed maturity in both innings with different mindsets

He had already waited for 14 years, three months and 10 days before getting the India Test cap on his head. By the time Sarfaraz made his way into the middle of the Niranjan Shah Stadium, he had to wait a little longer. With the end of the 204-run fourth wicket stand between Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, the persistent wait finally ends. 

Mark Wood had just dismissed Rohit on 131, with England going with the short ball plan. The field was packed in the leg side; short leg, two mid-wickets, a fine leg, a long leg and a deep square leg- all were waiting for an early mistake from the debutant. Sarfaraz ducked and defended the three short balls of the remaining over. 

Sarfaraz, still on 0, tried to sweep the leg break from Rehan Ahmed that turned sharply to go past the outside edge. It was those nervy initial moments. 

“You don’t get these crowds in first-class cricket; you don’t get that many international players.” Sarfaraz described his weird feeling for the first couple of overs. 

In a strange series, where India’s batters have struggled so much in the first couple of Tests, losing 33 wickets to spin, the attacking shots haven’t quite come off. There came Joe Root, with a ring of three-square legs, and Sarfaraz accepted the invitation. He swept Root in all three directions of the square fielder, both in the air and along the ground. 

When the delivery was a tad fuller, he stepped out and thumped the ball over the bowler’s head for an effortless six. It was a shot of power and pure timing from someone who isn’t afraid of using his feet against spin. In the blink of an eye, Sarfaraz celebrated his fifty in 48 balls, the second fastest on men’s Test debut for India. 

On 62, Sarfaraz Khan’s dream of a maiden Test century was getting near. But, there came the miscommunication. Jadeja punched the ball sweetly towards mid-on and took a few steps. Sarfaraz responded in his call but by the time Jadeja decided to deny the single, his partner was well out of the crease. 

In the second innings, the situation was almost the same, but the goal was different. India needed quick runs, and Sarfaraz found his Mumbai junior Yashasvi Jaiswal on the other end, who was inching towards his second double century of the series. 

He kept the intent the same, and with a clear mind, he took advantage of the tired England bowlers. He remained unbeaten on 68 in the second innings, consisting of six boundaries and three sixes. 

India vs England, 3rd Test, Day 4_ Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sarfaraz Khan added 172 runs for 6th wicket _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Yashasvi and Sarfaraz added 172 runs for 6th wicket (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Temperament, Technique and Fearless Approach of Sarfaraz Khan

Sarfaraz exhibited a fearless approach in both innings. The first day of the Test saw two innings-defining centuries, but Sarfaraz’s exuberance with temperament and technique gave lie to the fact that it was his debut Test match. 

If one could put a mirror beside his batting, it would provide a feeling of Rishabh Pant, especially the one-handed chop-off James Anderson. That was exhilarating. He used his feet against the spinners, but the way he flicked his wrist to rotate the strike showed the importance of playing regularly on those spin tracks. 

His footwork and anticipation of reading the field against both pacers and spinners impressed Rohit Sharma, and everyone presented on the ground. The way he was guiding the balls late behind the stumps showed his immense time of playing spin. 

“I am doing these things for so long.” Sarfaraz said after his first innings knock. “Whenever I got a loose ball, I played bindaas (carefree), with just one plan in my mind.”

He was taking chances that might not come off on another day, but the skill of using the full depth of the crease would give him so many advantages. Using the depth, he could go onto the backfoot and manipulate the angles to either attack or defend the ball, something the rest of the India batters have been missing throughout the series. 

Keep on scoring runs- Sarfaraz needs to be in shape to cement his place

The hardest part of any cricketer’s career is to hold his place in the team, and the only way of doing it is scoring regular runs. With the amount of talent India have in domestic cricket, it won’t take long before a young player gets removed on the back of a poor run of form. 

Sarfaraz Khan has started his Test career fabulously. His main goal would be to look at the present and keep on scoring big runs for India. It’s always good to look at what’s in hand. At the moment, only one of KL Rahul, Virat Kohli or Shreyas Iyer could take his place. 

For the moment, he has cemented his place. It will be interesting to see how Rohit Sharma goes with him in the future. For every problem, the solution is steady and simple - keep on scoring truck-loaded runs, as Sarfaraz has been doing in the domestic circuit. India have Bangladesh and New Zealand coming towards the end of this year. If Sarfaraz keeps his form intact, he will be a good option in the middle order for the upcoming Australia tour at the end of this year. 


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