A personal wedding invitation from Chris Gayle, a privileged sneak-peek into AB de Villiers’ batting secrets and a first-hand look at Virat Kohli’s special diet. To boot, a comparison with Javed Miandad.
It’s been a whirlwind month-and-a-half for Sarfaraz Khan. From becoming the youngest man to play an IPL match to producing valuable cameos, it’s also been a period where the 17-year-old has gone from being one among millions of kids crowding the maidaans around Mumbai with lofty dreams to actually living them.
Not surprisingly, the welcoming party at his modest apartment in Kurla’s Taximen Colony has been burgeoning ever since news of Sarfaraz’s arrival spread around the area. And after having held his own at the highest level, he is back to being the wide-eyed kid regaling his visitors with his tryst with an ultimate fantasy.
“Woh (Kohli) kuch khata he nahi hai. Kya fitness hai uska!” he says when asked about the RCB skipper and the cricketer who all of India is most interested in. “I learned a lot from him. After looking at his determination, I want to work on my fitness. By next IPL, I want to lose 6 more kilograms,” he adds.
One of the more endearing sights of IPL 8 was the camaraderie Sarfaraz, with his limited grasp of English, shared with one of the leading lights of international cricket. There was hardly a game that RCB were involved in when de Villiers and Sarfarz didn’t walk off the field in each other’s arms. And Sarfaraz reveals to have learnt a lot more about AB than the world ever imagined it would.
“Once I asked AB how he plays those reverse and lap shots to a fast bowler. And he told me that he does it because he doesn’t fear getting hit in the nether regions. That’s why he wears three abdomen guards! Even I have started wearing three now. It actually helps mentally,” he says.
Most of Sarfaraz’s runs in his first IPL came behind the wicket as he exhibited both his ability to manoeuvre the ball to unlikely parts of the field and his brazen audacity. It’s this penchant that earned him the coinage of ‘Miandad’ from coach Daniel Vettori.
Sarfaraz admits to have not seen much of the former Pakistani great in action. But still accepts the nickname with pride.
Sarfaraz’s opportunities with the bat for RCB were limited with the top-three in the order in scintillating form throughout. But whenever he did get a chance, the right-hander made sure that people sat up and watched. He started off with an inside-out six off Ravindra Jadeja. Then came the 45 not out against Rajasthan Royals, where he hit boundaries off James Faulkner, Tim Southee and Shane Watson. And he finished off his campaign with a hard-hitting 31 against CSK again. That final knock even got him commendation from MS Dhoni with the Chennai captain passing on a message from Bharat Arun that the youngster had it in him to have a great career.
But it could all have ended up in an anti-climax, insists Sarfaraz. After the first few matches of the season, which he spent on the bench there was a fear that his IPL debut wouldn’t come this season.
“I thought they will send me back home after a few IPL games. I scored 80 runs off 30 balls in one of the practice games. Things changed thereafter. I was under more pressure when I made my debut. Otherwise it was only my Abba (Naushad) who was worrying,” he points out.
Just then, Sarfaraz receives a message on his WhatsApp from Gayle, another cricketer of legendary status who the youngster from Kurla has grown close to through the course of the IPL.
“He sent me a picture of us from the IPL. He has promised to send me air tickets to the Caribbean whenever he gets married,” he informs without a sense of being overwhelmed by it. There’s a reason for him trying to reign in the burst of emotions. Sarfaraz is keen on not ending up as a one-season wonder, of which there have been many in the IPL. “Chakachaundh zindagi hai IPL ke time (It’s a world of wonder in the IPL),” Sarfaraz says, insisting that he feels back at home in Taximen Colony.
“I have seen how people get lost after one good season. I’m happy with the way things went but I have a long way to go,” he adds while his father Naushad ensures that the highlights of his final IPL knock are being played on the wide-screen TV that the family purchased just a few months back.
Soon there is a flood of kids his age and younger than him with requests for selfies and autographs. Sarfaraz is now a star. And dealing with stardom isn’t a task that most teenagers are blessed with. It’s here that he’s keen on aping all that he learnt from watching the likes of Kohli, de Villiers and Gayle among others. The good parts anyway, as he corrects you.