Kabhi girte to kabhi girke sambhalte rehte, baithe rehne se to behtar tha ke chalte rehte. Chal ke gair ke kadmon se tum kanhi ke na rahe, Apne pairon se agar chalte to chalte rehte (Sometimes you fall, sometimes you get up, it’s better to keep walking than sit still. Relying on others will not get you anywhere, you have to walk towards your destination yourself.)
Sarfaraz Khan begins the conversation with some shayari (Urdu poetry) to describe his situation. Like a UPSC aspirant, who prepares day and night to clear the exam, Khan has scored runs by a truckload but has once again failed to clear his mains test, selection to the national squad. His name was missing from the list for the home series against Australia. Instead, the selection committee picked his close friend Suryakumar Yadav ahead of him. Three years of intense hard work has not been rewarded, yet.
A friend messaged him with a dramatic dialogue, but Khan replied that they only look good in films, not in reality. Needless to say, he is upset but hasn’t given up hope.
“Everywhere I go, I hear murmurs that he will play for India soon. On social media, I have thousands of messages talking about my exclusion. Sab bolte hain tera time aayega (everyone says your time will come). I came from Assam to Delhi the day after the selection, and wasn’t able to sleep the whole night. I kept asking why am I not there? But now after speaking to my father, I’m back to normal. I will never give up practice, I will not go under depression. Don’t worry, I will keep trying,” he told The Indian Express.
Khan’s feelings are understandable. Since 2019, the Mumbai batsman has scored 2,289 runs in 22 innings at an average of 134.64 with nine hundreds, five fifties, two double hundreds and a triple ton. No wonder his friends call him ‘India ka Bradman’.
“Somewhere I did get hurt,” he frequently says. His father Naushad, a coach, put his runs on social media expecting someone to recognise his son’s achievement. But he too was dejected. Khan senior flew to Delhi where Mumbai are scheduled to play their next Ranji Trophy game.
“I was down completely. It’s natural for anyone, especially once you have scored so many runs. I’m also human, not a machine. I too have emotions. I spoke to my father and he came to Delhi. I just had a practice session in Delhi with him. I have been getting messages and hearing that I should have been there. My father came and said our job is to score runs and he feels a day will come when I will play for India. So we need to keep that belief and let destiny decide the rest,” Khan adds.
Khan had been hearing that he would be selected since India were about to travel to Bangladesh for the Test series, based on his domestic performances.
Chief selector Chetan Sharma met him two weeks ago and said that all good things in life come late, but time is of the essence in cricket.
Khan is 26. Before every selection meeting, he admits he visualises seeing his name in the Indian squad, but the other day when he saw his name missing from the BCCI’s Twitter handle, he was shattered for a moment.
“I was sad not to see the name. But it is not in my hands. I have been doing everything I can. Din ko din aur raat ko raat nahi samjha (I have been working day and night). I’m just practising day in and day out. When I was growing up, we at home felt was I going to find a place in the Mumbai Ranji team. Now, we are talking about when I will find a place in the Indian team. So I have progressed.”
Naushad, a former club player-turned coach of his sons Sarfaraz and Musheer, always provides life lessons. He has given them many examples of players going under depression and being finished mentally before they arrive on the big stage.
“I have seen more downs than ups in my life, so I won’t keep this rejection for long with me,” Khan says.
Was his India A performance behind his non-selection? Or was it his fitness?
Khan dismisses such speculation. Instead, he asks what more he has to do for an India call-up. He bats for two days and fields for the next two in Ranji Trophy. He has cleared the yo-yo Test too. If India A performance was a selection criterion, then Prithvi Shaw didn’t play any India A game but was picked for the India T20 squad. Selectors in the past have made way for special players without considering their India A performances.
“Aisa nahi hai (it’s not like that), there are many players who haven’t played for India A team and have found a place in the Indian team. So I believe that apna time aayega (my time will come). Why only red ball? I have done well in white-ball cricket also. I was hospitalised during the Vijay Hazare Trophy, but came back and scored hundreds in two games. In Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, I even kept wickets for Mumbai. I feel I can play for India in white-ball matches too, no matter what anyone says,” Khan signs off.
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