IPL 2019: The return of Sarfaraz Khan in a new jersey

Taking a pay cut from Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sarfaraz joined Kings XI Punjab to be back in fray for competitive cricket.

Sarfaraz Khan attempts an unorthodox stroke playing for Kings XI Punjab, his new IPL team.   -  AFP

Prior to Prithvi Shaw’s rise in school cricket in Mumbai, it was Sarfaraz Khan who ruled the roost. The 21-year-old batsman fell off the radar due to injuries, and later, inconsistencies. Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019, with a new franchise, is a fresh platform for the youngster.

Kings XI Punjab offered him a fraction (₹25 lakh) of his Royal Challengers Bangalore fee (₹1.75 crore), but that shouldn’t matter as much as the second chance.

Three years ago, Sarfaraz had left Mumbai to play cricket for Uttar Pradesh. Lack of chances brought him back to base last year. He missed top-level cricket as he was completing the mandatory cooling-off period of one year to be available for selection in the Mumbai senior side.

Staying afloat

In the period between May 19, 2018 — his last game for RCB — and March 25, 2019 — first game for Kings XI — Sarfaraz kept his hunger alive through local tournaments such as Kanga League and DY Patil Tournament. Being in Kanga helped him stay in close proximity with his father-cum-coach, Naushad, who has been monitoring his progress. The senior Khan still plays the league in ‘B’ division for Young Mohammedan.

Sarfaraz emerged the top scorer in Kanga League ‘A’ Division representing Payyade Sports Club. He finished with 284 runs in four innings at an average of 71 with strike-rate of 94.04. “Sarfaraz wanted to come back and play for Mumbai, so he had to follow the rules of the cooling-off period. Most of the games in DY Patil Tournament were coming live on Facebook and YouTube. I have never missed him in action. At times, if I thought he needed me, I would go to the venue,” Naushad told Sportstar ahead of Kings XI’s fixture against Mumbai Indians.

“He also played a corporate tournament in Goa, which was live on social media,” he added.

MORE FROM IPL 2019

After a poor IPL with RCB last year, Sarfaraz straightaway got down to business. He wanted to rectify the issues one by one. It all started with the lower body training at Mumbai Cricket Association’s BKC facility with his brother, Moeen, to minimise injuries.

A knee injury had kept him out of the entire IPL in 2017.

“The training comprised all that a cricketer does in the off-season to stay fit. Now, he has also enrolled for the T20 Mumbai League. Let’s see if he is picked. His IPL performance will count,” said Naushad.

Sarfaraz excels in the scoop shot against fast bowlers, a rare breed among his contemporaries. He played one off Ben Stokes in Kings XI’s opening fixture against Rajasthan Royals, where he remained unbeaten on 46 off 29 balls.

He is certainly not over.

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