With the Under-19 World Cup still a few weeks away, Naushad Khan was already doing his research. The father of 16-year old Sarfaraz Khan was scouting pitches that would be used during the World Cup in Dubai, although he was sitting several thousand kilometers away at home in Mumbai.
Through his research on the internet, Naushad found that the Dubai wickets required a special kind of preparation as a batsman. The slow, low tracks at Dubai always represent a challenge to the batsmen and on Saturday, Sarfaraz was instrumental in negating it, giving India a 40-run win over Pakistan.
Planning for the tricky surface, Naushad had noted down a few points that he thought Sarfaraz ought to be aware of and set his son to work during several nets session at Azad Maidan, where he trains his team, John Bright. Naushad says he had only a few days with Sarfaraz before the attacking batsman had to report for a camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
“I knew the wickets in Dubai Stadium would be slow and there will be variable bounce. Sometimes the ball will come on quickly to the batsmen and sometimes it will come on late. It’s a tricky wicket for batsmen. What I got to know is that other pitches are flat except the Dubai Stadium ones. At Azad Maidan, we have such kind of pitches so I knew preparing for it was not an issue,” Naushad said.
Practice makes perfect
One of the things that Naushad and Sarfraz worked on was to get the youngster to play the sweep shot more frequently. At Azad Maidan, the father-son duo worked for hours, with Sarfaraz playing sweep after sweep until he got it perfect. By the time Sarfaraz had left for Dubai, he was raring to go.
On Saturday, the Mumbai lad scored 74 off 78 balls and his innings came when India colts were tottering at 94 for four. It was a pressure situation, but admittedly one that offered him the setting to announce himself with a good knock. Though Sarfarz struggled for the first 20 balls he faced, he grew in confidence the longer he spent in the middle. And when he got going, he turned to the sweep shot with increasing confidence. He scored 22 runs playing the sweep, hitting two boundaries while employing the shot against the Pakistani under-19 spinners.
“The experts will say that he missed a chance to score a hundred but my friends will say he batted well. As a coach I feel he missed the chance too but as a father I’m happy that he batted well in a crunch situation. The real test of a player’s temperament is when the situation is tough,” he added.
Sarfraz’s confidence will however be sky high considering how crucial his knock was to India’s win on Saturday.
The defending champions posted 262 for seven after opting to bat at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and then bowled out their opponents for 222 in 48.4 overs, with off-spinner Deepak Hooda registering figures of five for 41. Alongside Khan, Sanju Samson (68) was the major contributor with the bat before Baroda player Hooda did the trick with the ball. Pakistan were off to a solid start with the two openers, Sami Aslam (64) and Imam-ul-Haq (39) putting 109 runs together for the opening wicket. But their batting fell apart in the face of some spirited bowling from the Indians, managing to add only 113 runs for nine wickets.
Earlier, opting to take first strike, India rode on Akhil Herwadkar and Ankush Bains to put on 65 runs for the first wicket in just a little under nine overs, before Irfanullah Shah struck for Pakistan. India U-19 skipper Vijay Zol did not last long as he was trapped in front by Zia-ul-Haq, just fours runs after Bains’ dismissal. (with match inputs from PTI)
Briefscores: India U-19 267/7 in 50 overs (Sanju Samson 68, Sarfraz Khan 74; Irfanullah Shah 2/32, Karamat Ali 2/37) bt Pakistan U-19 222 all out in 48.4 overs (Sami Aslam 64, Imam-ul-Haq 39; Deepak Hooda 5/41, Sarfraz Khan 1/10)