His day started at 5am. Before the sun’s rays had barely emblazoned the sky, a young Sarfaraz would have already left the comfort of his bed behind and set about making sure that he would go on to create an opportunity for himself.
“I would then start practice by 7am for a couple of hours, then play my match till sundown, then practice a little further after the match,” he recalls. “By the time I reached home, I was generally so tired that I went off to sleep immediately.
“I never got a lot of time for things like television and many a times had to skip school for cricket,” he adds matter-of-factly.
Now 21, he has reaped the benefits of being the proverbial early bird as the Kings XI Punjab’s recent acquisition has already played in two U-19 World Cups for India and four straight VIVO Indian Premier League seasons. And it’s because his grind, masked by his passion, started at an early age.
“When I was six or seven years old, my father used to take me to his coaching sessions at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan,” Sarfaraz reminisces. “They used to hide me using the kitbags so that I was not hit by an astray ball; and after the practice session, I got my turn doing drills and knockings.”
His father was a professional cricketer himself, and he attributes that his presence as one of the main reasons for his quick teenage success.
Sarfaraz sprang into the limelight as a 12-year-old when he scored a then record 439 runs for his school team Rizvi Springfield against IES Charkop school in 2009, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s record score of 346 in the process.
“It was courtesy the constant practice with my father at a very hard level,” he says. “I used to always practice one level higher. In the Under-14 stage, I played Under-16 level bowlers so it was not very difficult to play opposition bowlers in competitive games.”
The teenager’s father Naushad Khan runs a coaching academy which has helped train the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Iqbal Abdullah and Rajasthan Royals former pacer Kamran Khan. Sarfaraz believes it was playing such bowlers during training that helped him acclimatize to the IPL easily and tweak his game accordingly to play more aggressive cricket, with four consecutive seasons at Royal Challengers Bangalore before now making the switch to Kings XI Punjab, when he was snatched up at the auction.
“I was practicing in the nets when someone came up to me and said that Punjab have picked me,” he says. “I wasn’t told for how much money but anyway I was relieved and happy because it was a chance to reunite with Mandy bhai (Mandeep Singh), KL Rahul and Chris Gayle and other RCB teammates.”
While the early starts have moulded him to the cricketer that he is today, Sarfaraz however aspires to do well for KXIP as a pedestal to reaching the senior India squad.
“Every cricketer thinks of performing well in big tournaments like the IPL to push his career up a notch,” he reasons. “So if I perform, then obviously I will get my opportunities.