For Sarfaraz Khan, India’s hero in their win over Pakistan on Saturday in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, failure is not an option.
The 16-year-old from Mumbai is the son of famous Mumbai coach Naushad, and from a very early age, it has been drummed into him that he has to succeed as an international cricketer. And looking at the way his career has progressed so far, Sarfaraz is on the right track.
Having shot into the limelight after scoring 439 in a Harris Shield match (Mumbai’s highly-competitive inter-school tournament) in 2009 as a 12-year-old, he has graduated early to the Under-19 squad of Mumbai, followed by the national team.
Father Naushad, who is known for producing exceptional talent out of small-town boys with hardly any background of cricket (IPL stars Iqbal Abdulla and Kamran Khan are two examples), is a constant companion and is always thinking of ways to provide his son with greater challenges.
Naushad has been accused of trying to live his dreams through his son and being too harsh on the teenager, but Sarfaraz doesn’t mind. And he has even thought of a novel way he could take Naushad to the field wherever he plays for India.
Speaking to Sport360° after his 74-run, one-wicket, one-run out and four-catch effort yesterday, Sarfaraz revealed his father was the reason why he chose the unusual number 97 for his shirt.
“I previously wore No87. But I thought about it and since my father’s name is Naushad, I decided to use 97. Nine and seven in hindi is ‘Nau’ and ‘saat’. Put together, nau-saat comes very close to my father’s name. So, I took 97 as I now have my name on my shirt, as well as my father’s,” said Sarfaraz.
On his performance against Pakistan, he added: “I am glad I got the Man of the Match against them. We have matches against Scotland and PNG, but Pakistan was the most difficult match in our group. I am feeling very confident and I am hoping to perform as well in the coming matches.”
The innings showed the mental strength that Sarfaraz possesses. He came in with India in trouble and struggled as he took some 16 balls to open his account. He was soon dropped on nought, but then took apart the Pakistan bowlers, playing numerous sweep shots and pulls.
“I found that the ball was turning and keeping a bit low. I was not getting the straight shots. The first 12-15 balls I was not able to score,” Sarfaraz added. “The dropped catch helped me a lot. When that happened, I thought I could have been out. I just started playing my natural game after that.
“Normally, the ground I play on in Mumbai, Azad Maidan, the ball turns a lot there. When I started, there was obviously some pressure…also because this was such a big match for us and it was live on TV and millions would be watching. But once I stayed there for the first 15 balls, I started feeling a lot more comfortable.”
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Defending champions India made a brilliant start to their campaign when they beat arch-rivals Pakistan by 40 runs in their opening Group A match of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
At the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday, Pakistan were left chasing a record target of 263 – their previous best chase in U19 World Cup was a 251 against Bangladesh in the 2010 edition – after Sarfaraz Khan (74) and Sanju Samson (68) had put on 119 for the fifth wicket and helped India to 262-7.
Pakistan's response began in lively fashion as openers Sami Aslam (64) and Imam-ul Haq (39) amassed 109 runs for the first wicket. But once Imam, nephew of Pakistan great Inzamam, holed out to Sarfaraz in deep long-off, Pakistan were never in the reckoning as they were choked down by sharp outfielding.
Man of the Match Sarfaraz was always involved, and apart from the vital contribution of 74, he took four catches, one wicket and effected the run-out of Kamran Ghulam, who had scored a century in the final of the U19 Asian Cup against India last month in Sharjah.
For India, off-spinner Deepak Hooda was the most successful bowler, taking five wickets for 41, three of his victims caught by Sarfaraz.
Judging by how the Dubai International Stadium pitch behaved on Friday when South Africa played the West Indies and the ball kept low and slow in the second innings of the match, it was always going to be a tough task for Pakistan U19, and they were not helped by the fact that seven of the 11 batsmen are left-handers.
During India’s innings, the stocky Sarfaraz joined Samson with his team in trouble at 94-4 after 23 overs. But he scored a belligerent 74 in 78 balls, and added 119 runs for the fifth wicket.
It was the highest individual score in India v Pakistan seven matches they have played on the U19 World Cup stage.
After a cautious start, in which he failed to score a single run in the first 15 balls, Sarfaraz opened up and reached his fifty with a superb pulled six in 60 balls.
He finally fell when he holed out an Irfanullah Shah delivery to Hassan Raza at long off. His 74 included five hits to the fence and a six.
Samson, who played many a swashbuckling innings for Rajasthan Royals in last year’s Indian Premier League, was rather subdued, but the importance of his 68 in 101 balls cannot be denied.
India started brilliantly with openers Ankush Bains and Akhil Herwadkar adding 65 runs in the first eight overs. But once Bains departed, bowled by Irfanullah Shah for 24, the runs dried up and the wickets kept falling at regular intervals.
Herwadkar, trying to force the pace as Pakistan spinners applied the brakes, made 41 before he became one of leg-spinner Karamat Ali’s two quick victims.
Irfanullah (2-32) and Karamat (2-37) were the two most successful bowlers for Pakistan.
The ICC Under-19 World Cup got underway in the UAE on Friday as the future stars of cricket battle it out for the ultimate prize in youth cricket.
Here, Abdul Kadir Hussain profiles one of the pre-tournament favourites in Pakistan, who despite losing their opener to rivals India, are expected to contest the latter stages of the World Cup.
Pakistan always start as one of the favorites in this, the pinnacle of youth cricket. Back to back winners in 2004 and 2006, they tend to perform well at this level where natural talent and one or two individuals can make all the difference.
This time around hopes are especially high, other then the heart breaking loss to India in the Asia Cup final in January of this year, this current group of players has had tremendous success over the past year. Winning 18 games in a row before that loss to their arch rivals.
The current squad boasts some high quality players, but the leader is undoubtedly captain Sami Aslam. Already the world record holder for most runs made at under-19 level, Aslam comes into the tournament in a rich vein of form having scored heavily this season not only at the under-19 level but also at first-class level in Pakistan.
A left-handed opening batsmen, Aslam is compared by many to the legendary Saeed Anwar, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the weight of expectation not only of him but of his whole side.
Aslam is supported in the batting department by Inam-ul-Haq – the nephew of the former Pakistan great Inzamam, and by a third left hander in Hasan Raza.
Kamran Ghulam and Zafar Gohar are two hard hitting all-rounders who will be key not only in the lower half of the batting but will also be the team’s main bowling weapons during the middle overs with their left-arm spin.
The pace bowling department will be led by left-armer Zia-ul-Haq; a strapping lad of around 6ft 3” who generates good bounce and is an intelligent bowler, with good changes of pace and the ability to move the ball away from right handers.
Rounding out the bowling department will be diminuative Karamat Ali; a wily leg spinner who has caused a lot of problems even to good players of spin bowling like arch-rivals India.
Success may come down to that Achilles heel of Pakistan cricket – fielding. It was the fielding that let them down badly in that Asia Cup Final loss to India, and it will be interesting to see if the sessions they have had with former senior team fielding coach Julien Fountain have resulted in any improvement.
The UAE conditions should suit the sub-continent teams and I would be surprised if Pakistan got knocked out any earlier than the semi-finals. Beyond that it will be a matter of handling the pressure and having that little bit of luck that all champions need.