Just like in Indian classical music, Indian cricket too has over the years formulated its own informal coaching gharanas. From the Kamal Bhandarkar gharana of copybook batting to the Tarak Sinha gharana renowned for gutsy batting, many such gurukuls have come up in Indian cricket.
The biggest gharana, though, remains the Bombay batting gharana, with numerous sub-gharanas to it. Over the last two decades, the Rizvi Springfield gharana has dominated the Mumbai schools arena. And four of its most famous disciples — each of whom has been touted as boy wonder at some stage over the last decade — have now graduated from maidans to first-class cricket in contrasting styles.
For the second time this season, Prithvi Shaw, Sarfaraz Khan, Armaan Jaffer and Yashavi Jaiswal featured together in Mumbai’s starting XI during the Ranji Trophy semifinal versus Uttar Pradesh. And each of them marked the occasion by scoring at least a fifty during Mumbai’s run-feast.
The quartet — under the tutelage of Raju Pathak, the cricket team coach of the Rizvi Springfield school in Mumbai — emerged as a nightmare for bowlers in the school circuit, tormented even the seniormost bowling attacks in Mumbai’s famed club and corporate cricket circuit, repeated its heroics for India U-19, and is finally doing the same together for Mumbai donning the Lion’s crest.
Interestingly, besides the school and the coach, Shaw, Sarfaraz and Armaan have more in common: their insatiable appetite for runs and a pushy father at home. Had it not been for all the sacrifices that Pankaj Shaw, Kalim Jaffer and Naushad Khan have made for the last two decades, the Rizvi gharana may perhaps wouldn’t have been born.
Interestingly, despite being involved in a unique jugalbandi of sorts in school cricket — Sarfaraz scored 439 in the Harris Shield, Armaan responded with 498 and Prithvi notched up 546 a few years later — their journey has taken different routes before being reunited in the Mumbai dressing room.
Shaw, the youngest of the lot, had a swashbuckling first-class debut, then led the India Under-19 before repeating his hundred on Ranji debut in the Test arena. A string of injuries coupled with discipline issues meant he lost his place in India’s side and is now leading Mumbai in a bid to regain his place as an India opener.
Sarfaraz, the oldest among the trio, tasted early success but left Mumbai and tried his luck out for his native state Uttar Pradesh. Despite being a regular in IPL, it took Sarfaraz a second stint with Mumbai that started during the last season to actually realise his talent at first-class level. Since then, with close to 2000 runs in 15 innings, he hasn’t looked back.
Jaffer, the nephew of his famous uncle who not only featured in 31 Tests but is also the highest run-getter in the Ranji history, has had the roughest road so far. Despite making his Mumbai debut six years ago, a spate of injuries and bad form at this level meant he was in danger of not making it big.
However, sensing his prodigious talent, everyone involved in Mumbai cricket has backed him up and the elegant batter has finally repaid the faith posed in him. Having scored only 55 runs in his 10 innings in first-class cricket coming into this season, Armaan had to cool heels on the bench for the first two games.
Since getting an opportunity versus Odisha, the No. 3 batter has made it count. Having garnered 339 runs in five innings, he has shown that he is ready to serve Mumbai cricket — if not Indian cricket — for a long haul.
Jaiswal, meanwhile, has made the most of a rare first-class game after a prolonged wait of three and a half years. Besides becoming only the ninth Mumbai batter to notch up a hundred in each innings of a Ranji match in the semifinal, the left-handed batter has already achieved a rare distinction of hitting three consecutive hundreds.
While Jaiswal has had a more challenging upbringing than his Rizvi seniors, the senior trio’s camaraderie is also one of the talking points of Mumbai’s success. While Shaw, the captain, is considered to be level-headed, prankster Sarfaraz is touted as the life of the team. Jaffer, meanwhile, is the calmest of the trio and seldom loses his cool, even off the field.
Having transcended from the maidans into Mumbai’s dressing room, the quartet will be hoping to sing the Rizvi gharana tunes in international cricket soon.