TWO teenagers with contrasting backgrounds and distinctive batting styles but with one common link — a passionate cricket nut for a father — came together to lift Uttar Pradesh in dramatic fashion on Day Two of their clash against Madhya Pradesh at Moradabad.
If 18-year-old Sarfaraz Khan was the star signing for his new team at the start of the Ranji Trophy season, then 19-year-old Mohammad Saif has spent the last few years dreaming about breaking into the senior UP team.
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While Sarfaraz is used to being hogged by media limelight since the time he was 14, Saif has spent his junior cricket days in obscurity, despite some promising performances very early in his career.
On Friday, though, Sarfaraz and Saif both shared the spotlight in equal capacity, scoring 198 and 155 respectively, to take UP to a mammoth 656/5 at the end of the second day’s play.
The duo also put on 287 for the fourth wicket to prop up a batting line-up that has been a major let-down over the last few seasons.
And incidentally, the first persons they spoke about at the end of the day were their respective fathers. The influence of Sarfaraz’s father, Naushad, might be well-documented but Saif too has a father story to tell.
It was his businessman father Mohammed Khurshid who set him on the cricket dream by taking him to the nets at the Sigra stadium. Three years down the line, while he was in the Sports college, he was picked for the UP U-16 team.
He hit 747 runs in the first season followed by 1000 in the next which helped him graduate to the U-19 side. He bounced back from a middling first year by slamming 1200 runs in the next and pushed his case for selection to the senior side. He was disappointed when he wasn’t picked for the Vijay Hazare trophy but has managed to make it count this season.
“Joh hota hai ache ke liye hota hai (whatever happens, happens for good). I was sad when I was initially not picked for Ranji and also for India Under-19 side despite scoring runs. Only once I was picked for the India U-19 team which toured Sri Lanka, but thereon I kept waiting but the call never came,” he says.
“UP is tough state. One has to compete every day. I’m happy that finally a big innings has come. I have always been a boy who has looked ahead and has not bothered about the past. Now I just hope that by the end of the season I make my name and cement my place in my side.”
If Saif wanted to score runs to book a place in the Ranji team, Sarfaraz also had a goal in his mind at the start of this season — to prove that he wasn’t just a T20 player.
“Majzaa aagaya,” he says, before adding, “I took time to settle down. Looking at the score you will be thinking that I batted fast but I took a lot of time. My hundred came in more than 100 balls and when I completed my hundred, I didn’t know how quickly I scored those another 50 runs. In those hundred runs, it was only once I hit in the air. That is what I want, to bat patiently and stay there at the wicket.”
Sarfaraz’s innings of 155 off 164 balls had 15 fours and four sixes, and he is quick to point out that sixes came only after he reached his milestone. Two happy fathers, two happy sons, and a very happy UP camp.
Brief scores: Uttar Pradesh 656/5 in 180 overs (Mohammad Saif 198, Sarfaraz Khan 155, Almas Shaukat 128) vs Madhya Pradesh