Patience and graft aren’t for those looking to provide onlookers with instant gratification, but they are often invaluable during times of crisis. With the ball swinging both ways and the breeze adding to the difficulties in negotiating deliveries, Mumbai’s formidable top order crumbled on day one of its Ranji Trophy clash against Delhi at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi.
Sarfaraz Khan, however, batted sagaciously; he showed caution before opening up in the afternoon to turn the tide and give the upper hand to his team by the end of the day’s play. He played some superb strokes and lit up the day with four sixes, making up for a slow start with some T20-style acceleration in the latter part of his innings.
The century was the 13th of his first-class career. His innings also had pluck, style and panache. Speaking about it to reporters, he shared his game plan: “Often, I find myself batting when the team is in a spot of bother – 16 for 3, or 20 for 3, or 50 for 3. When I go out to bat, my intention is always to spend time in the middle. If the pitch is good for batting, I attack normally, and if the pitch has bounce – such as here today, the ball was swinging, and we felt the breeze at times – I try to be patient. I knew that the pace attack won’t be as sharp during the post-lunch sessions, and I could then score some runs.”
He played both of Delhi’s spinners – Hrithik Shokeen and Yogesh Sharma – well. Shokeen was removed from the attack after just two overs as a result of Sarfaraz’s attack (he returned to bowl later after nine wickets had fallen). Yogesh was hit for runs, too, but he came back to snare the big fish: Sarfaraz came down the track for a big hit, missed the ball, and was stumped. “The fast bowlers were bowling well. I was trying to make sure that the spin bowlers don’t settle in; before they put me under pressure, I thought I should put them under pressure. That plan was successful, and so the runs started flowing quickly.”
With his fusillade of runs, he has been knocking on the doors of the Indian team for some time now. Support from his father helps him stay motivated.
“My father is in town. For the last two days, we practised in Ghaziabad. The only thing he said to me was: “Our only job is to score runs, whether we score those runs in domestic or international cricket. And we’ll keep scoring runs.” He motivates me a lot whenever I go through a difficult phase in my life,” Sarfaraz said.