Life comes full circle for Mumbai's Sarfaraz Khan after century against UP

Having returned to the Mumbai fold after playing for Uttar Pradesh, young batsman Sarfaraz Khan struck an unbeaten century on day three of the Ranji Trophy fixture to lend stability to the innings.

Mumbai's Sarfaraz Khan plays a shot square on the offside during his unbeaten century against Uttar Pradesh.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

The moment he whipped left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar for his 14th boundary at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, Sarfaraz Khan turned around to his partner Siddhesh Lad for a confirmation of his hundred. The moment it was confirmed, he leapt in the air twice, gave the Uttar Pradesh dressing room a stare and then turned to his teammates in the gallery and kissed the Lions’ crest on his jersey.

Life had indeed come a full circle for the Mumbai youngster. Less than a year after making his first-class debut and featuring in first of his two Under-19 World Cup, the versatile batsman on the insistence of his father-cum-coach Naushad, moved from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh with an eye for consistent opportunities.

But it turned out to be far from a memorable experience as the middle-orer batsman featured in just eight Ranji games for UP during his three seasons. Having returned to Mumbai at the beginning of last season, served the mandatory one-year cooling off period, Sarfaraz couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than a face-off against UP to notch up his first century.

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“Jab bhi main peechhe dekhta hoon, mujhe chakkar aa jaati hai, to isiliye main baar baar peeche nahi dekhta hoon (whenever I turn around, my head spins so I avoid looking back),” he quipped but couldn’t help but get emotional.

“The decision (to move to UP) was dad’s. I remember when I was leaving for UP, I was packing and keeping my Mumbai kit aside, there were tears in my eyes as I loved Mumbai so much. The decision was dad’s. I did not think I would ever be able to play for Mumbai again,” he said.

“Then to come back… sometimes I cannot believe it, it feels as if I am sleeping. It is a very proud moment for me. I was born here, I have played all my cricket here, so I like this (city).”

With his T20 exploits including in the Indian Premier League arena, Sarfaraz was on the verge of being tagged a white-ball specialist. But his two knocks - 71 not out against Karnataka when he batted with the tail on a challenging surface and the unbeaten 132 on Tuesday - have stamped his class as a player for the longer formats.

“People do not know a lot about me as they have seen me mostly in white-ball cricket. I start my practice by batting for two hours against the swinging ball,” he said.

“My dad has made a pitch at our home where the ball swings a lot. I play there all day, and after that, when it swings here, it does not seem very difficult. I feel I bat better against the red ball compared to the white ball. Whenever I make a hundred in red-ball, I get it in a session itself. My dad, who I consider one of the best coaches, tells me that I have one of the best techniques (for red-ball cricket).”

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