The selection of Armaan Jaffer and Sarfaraz Khan,14 and 15 respectively,in the 30-member probables list for the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team isnt exactly a surprise,given their prolific ways at the crease in the local circuit for the last couple of years.
While Armaan possesses all the silken grace of his uncle Wasim Jaffer,Sarfaraz has been a gutsy,dependable middle-order bat. Apart from hailing from the same school,Rizvi Springfield,they have both had the luxury of being coached by their fathers Kalim Jaffer (who earlier coached Wasim) and Naushad Khan,who runs an academy at Azad Maidan.
Having done the hard work in their early teens,their entire days revolving around cricket,and accumulated a mountain of runs,the pair stood no chance of going unnoticed. But burdened with hype and mounting expectations in a city that still talks about a 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkars international debut,the real challenge begins now as they find themselves thrown into the big mans world.
Last year,Sarfaraz was promoted to the Mumbai under-19 side but reached the 100-run mark only once in six games. The same Sarfaraz,who had scored a 439 in a Harris Shield match a few years ago and followed it with frequent big scores in age-group tournaments,had suddenly discovered upon landing in a more testing environment that things werent the same. There are fewer loose balls and not too many oppositions that can be beaten to pulp,unlike in Mumbai schools cricket.
Armaan can assess his own future from his colleagues showing. The days lying ahead wont be a cake walk. It will be inevitable that he will face plenty of pressure to live up to the hype as the next big thing emerging from Mumbais maidans.
Many highly touted teens in the past including Vineet Indulkar have been mowed down by the burden of expectations,fading away as they couldnt quite step up. From age-group to first class level is a big bridge to cross with varying conditions. Even if Armaan cant match Tendulkars achievements at his age,he can be called a success if he can come close to emulating his uncle.
Devendra is a special correspondent based in Mumbai