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The roar of a relentless Sarfaraz Khan

New Delhi: There were still ten minutes left for play to resume post Lunch and Sarfaraz Khan, unbeaten on 12 off 42 balls, stood quietly near the ropes as his Mumbai teammates engaged in a little football gig.

There were chirps and laughter around but the 25-year-old, with hands nice and warm inside the lower pockets, stood expressionless like a rock.

He kept staring at the 22 yards from a fair distance till opponents Delhi walked down the pavilion staircase and jogged to the middle. Out came the umpires and in marched Sarfaraz.

The first session went the hosts’ way as they sent back the formidable Mumbai top-order consisting the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Arman Jaffer, and Ajinkya Rahane but the job was only half done as the run-machine was still out in the middle.

For most of the morning session, when there was plenty in the pitch for the seamers, the right-hander continued to play late and leave early.

There was not a moment during that period, which saw his teammates fall one after another, where he looked in trouble. Precise footwork, no rash shots, and played very close to the body.

Those first few balls he wasn’t looking to win the battle anyway. He was just warming up, taking stock of conditions, assessing every bowler, and waiting to satisfy his appetite for runs post Lunch.

Bright sunshine covered the Arun Jaitley Stadium in the second session and before the home side could find their morning zip, Sarfaraz was on top of them.

Like a boss, he accumulated runs with ease and didn’t allow spinners to settle down. The odd one did grip but the right-hander stuck to his plan and piled on runs with the lower order. The manner in which he read conditions, adapted, and then dominated was a very seasoned approach. The mountain of runs he has scored in the last three domestic seasons is a testament to the same.

The roar

If the first half of his innings was watchful, the second was an absolute breeze, barring that stumping opportunity when he was batting on 84. He picked the spots with ease and in no time came close to another hundred.

As soon as he entered the nineties, the handful of spectators had their cell phones out and cameras on. They knew it was roar time. The moment finally came when he worked one around for a quick single and reached the three-figure mark.

Nearly knocked the bowler, Yogesh Sharma, out with the mini dash which precedes the trademark loud roar.

Out came the helmet and with a loud “come on” he celebrated the hundred like there was no tomorrow. The Moosewala thigh slap followed and then Amol Mazumdar doffing his hat from the dressing room was probably the moment of the day.

Relentless

Since the start of 2020, Sarfaraz has been absolutely relentless in the domestic circuit, especially red ball. He has accumulated 2765 runs in 20 fixtures at a mindboggling average of 131.66 and has already hit 12 hundreds – including one triple and two double.

These knocks on the selectors’ door haven’t been enough for him to break into the Test squad yet and the right-hander will surely break the door at the rate with which he is going.

The 125 vs Delhi was his third ton of the season and he is surely not stopping there.

Rollercoaster days

The last few days were an emotional rollercoaster as the disappointment of not making it to the Test team hit him hard. An SOS call was made to father Naushad who took the first flight to Delhi and practiced with his son at a Ghaziabad academy for two days before the Ranji contest.

Even when his teammates looked high in spirits during the photo session with the broadcasters, it wasn’t the usual chirpy Sarfaraz on eve of the match.

The shoulders were clearly down as he took a slow walk back to the changing room and politely refused media interactions. A ton later, the mood changed, chin was back up and the smile returned.

“Jab mai andar hota hota hu to team ka mahaul cool rehta hai. Mai andar enjoy karta hu, wo bahar enjoy karte hai (When I am batting, mood in the team is cool. I enjoy inside and they enjoy outside),” a very satisfied Sarfaraz aptly summed up the day during his interaction with the media.

No wonder the team looked so relaxed during the football gig at Lunch when the scoreboard read a tricky 91/4.

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