Exclusive Interview with Sarfaraz Khan: Sarfaraz Khan’s father Naushad Khan shared an exclusive anecdote with Cricfit.com…He told us that when Sarfaraz was very small he wanted to find out if he would be a left or right handed batsman. So he and his friend gave Sarfaraz a chocolate holding it towards his left hand, this little boy grabbed it with his left hand. Further he put the chocolate towards his right hand and this time around he took it with his right hand. They were confused but still determined to find out. They then put the chocolate in the middle and Sarfaraz grabbed it with both his hands tightly. So from there on his father knew that no matter want he turns out to be, he would hold the cricket bat too…with the same passion he caught hold of the chocolate.
This is how passionate Sarfaraz Khan is about cricket. As an aggressive right handed batsman he played in the under 19 World Cup in 2014 and further became the youngest player at age 17 to play for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2015. An unbeaten 45 off only 21 balls Vs RR made him a star. CricFit.com author Binaisha M.Surti met this humble cricketer at his house in Kurla were he spoke about his passion for the sport to playing IPL and Chris Gayle becoming his best friend!
Out of so many different sports what made you choose the game of “Cricket” and how has your journey been so far?
Sarfaraz: My father himself played cricket, I used to watch him play and used to accompany him to the ground…Watching him play I too developed an interest in the sport. Talking about my journey, first I was not even selected in the 30 probable’s of the India under 19 squad. But I kept working hard and I knew that I would get my chance. I was lucky enough to get a chance to play from the stand by players. Further I scored 146 runs in a friendly match and that helped me get a place in the India under 19 team. Since I performed well at this level, RCB called me for selections in Bangalore and there too I impressed everyone and that is how I was chosen in the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad in IPL 2015. It was tough and I had to work hard but then I made it!
You broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record in an inter school match in the Harris Shield tournament in 2009 scoring 439 runs. Could you share some memories of that knock?
Sarfaraz: Firstly I never thought that I could score so many runs because it was a difficult wicket to bat on but then I did manage to score a big amount. At the end of the 1st day I remained not out on a score of 200 plus. Further on the next day my aim was to break the record of Sachin Tendulkar which I did comfortably. Everyone kept telling me to play my natural game from there on and finally I reached 439 runs and then got out. Later I came to know that I had broken the record for the highest score in the Harris Shield inter school tournament.
After this knock Shahrukh Khan had invited me to his house Mannat to congratulate me. He told me to enjoy my game and not take any pressure. He gave me his autograph on a bat. I felt very happy on meeting him.
How do you manage your studies as well as your cricket career?
Sarfaraz: I am weak in studies, but since now I play a lot of cricket there is no time for anything else. But when I do get time I go for my tuition classes and I even go for my English speaking course. At the moment all my focus is on cricket.
You represented India at the ICC under 19 World Cup in Dubai last year. What did you learn from this experience?
Sarfaraz: Initially I used to wonder how I will play for India as I was quite small back then and it was my first experience too. I was not even sure that I would be playing or not. I learnt a lot from this tournament. The main lesson which I learnt was how to handle pressure situations. I got a lot of confidence as I kept playing well in the games and handled pressure well. I used all my experience since I played cricket from a young age and that helped me a lot. The team’s plan was to play our normal game and be united. We wanted to put in all our efforts and then we would accept whatever the result would be.
How has your approach been towards the T20 format in IPL? How different is it playing in Ranji Trophy and IPL?
Sarfaraz: I got to play with some very big players in the IPL like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle and I was very happy to play alongside them. But I want to play more Ranji Trophy games as I wish to play Test Cricket soon. T20 is a short game and there you have to play your shots and score big runs while in Ranji games you have to stay on the crease for longer durations. You have to stay cool and calm on the crease. Senior players like Abhishek Nayar and Surya Kumar Yadav have backed me a lot and gave me advice on how to play in different situations.
What was it like to play in the big stage of IPL?
Sarfaraz: I always had confidence in myself that if I would get a chance to play I too could perform well. Daniel Vettori gave me that chance and told me that I would be playing in the matches…he gave me a lot of confidence too. Whatever chances I got I utilised them and played well and then everyone wanted to become my friend. Chris Gayle became my best friend in the RCB setup. I was very happy as such a big player made friends with me. He used to guide me with many things. AB de Villiers also helped me a lot and so did Virat Kohli.
What did you learn from players like AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli?
Sarfaraz: AB de Villiers spoke to me about my technique and I also wanted to know how to improve my scoop shots…The next day I attempted a scoop shot while playing. He came to me and told me that I played the scoop shot better than him; he added that he did not have to teach me on how to play it. He said that at my age he could never even play like that. His words gave me a lot of confidence. Virat Kohli was a very cool and calm person and he too gave me a lot of confidence. I really liked playing under him. Chris Gayle used to help me with everything. He himself would make me gym alongside him and we would talk about many things.
Tell us about the RCB dressing room atmosphere?
Sarfaraz: It was great to be in the RCB dressing room, music would be played all the time…Everyone was always positive. I used to be with Chris Gayle and Mandeep Singh most of the time.
You hit 45 of just 21 balls against Rajasthan Royals. What was going on in your mind when you came out to bat for RCB?
Sarfaraz: I knew at that point of time… if I have to make my place in this team then I would have to play well. I really like playing against the Rajasthan team as I had studied them well. I had to perform on that day anyhow, there was pressure but then I knew I had to score big runs. Virat Kohli had told us that 190 would be a good score, when I went out to bat I was not thinking anything. The only thing I knew was that I had to score runs and help my team get a big total. If my teams score rises then automatically even my score would rise.
What did Kohli tell you after that knock, while doing Namaste to you? How much did life change after that knock?
Sarfaraz: Sine I had played well and come he said that “Haanji Bhai Sahab Namaste.” I did not feel that it was such a big achievement, as I have played quite a few of these knocks before…It was pretty normal for me. But for the world it was quite different that such a young player doing so well. I never imagined that it was such a big knock and it would be shown on TV. Life after that knock has not changed much, but the only thing I want to do is perform well in the coming season and I have a long way to go as I want to play for India someday.
What further happened in the dressing room after this particular knock of yours?
Sarfaraz: Everyone started liking me even more after I had played well because many might have thought that I was a small kid and how would I manage to play at this level. I would possibly also be a one season wonder. Whatever confidence I had… I backed myself as I had worked hard and I also had my family’s blessings and support. From there on everyone started becoming friendlier with me in the RCB setup.
What responsibility did Coach Daniel Vettori give to you in the RCB set up?
Sarfaraz: He told me just go out there and play my natural game. He said that I would be batting at no 6 and would have to play according to the situation and not think about anything else.
What role has your father Naushad Khan who also happens to be your coach, played in making you that star player?
Sarfaraz: He has played a very big role in making me a good cricketer. From small he has been coaching me and sending me on tours so that I know how each wicket plays and now he is doing the same with my younger brother as well. He gives us all that experience and motivation. Once you get that then things become simple. My father believes that after a fall everyone learns but you should learn before you fall. All his teaching is helping me now.
Is Sarfaraz Khan fit today? Talk about your fitness routine.
Sarfaraz: (Smiles) I think I need to get more fit and even Virat bhai has told me to concentrate on my fitness. He told me that I put in a good effort when it comes to my batting, bowling or fielding and if I become fit I will be able to play extremely well. Now I am on a diet to lose weight and I am trying my best to look fit. I love eating so whenever I eat something unhealthy I remember Virat bhai and Daniel Sir’s words on fitness. I know if I have to play at the senior level, I will have to concentrate on my fitness a lot.
When not playing cricket how do you spend your free time?
Sarfaraz: I do not get any free time at all. Even when I go outside my house, the wicket is under my leg. I think only of cricket all the time. I keep practising everyday whether it is summer or any other season. A lot of people have been working with me and helping me with my game.
Which format are you most comfortable with and why?
Sarfaraz: I like playing all the formats. If you see I perform well in all of them. I pay attention to all 3 formats equally. I find ODIs and T20 easier while I have to work a little more on my game in the longer format. There is a lot of difference even while playing with the red ball and the white one.
As a cricketer do you have any superstitions?
Sarfaraz: There is nothing like that. I just like to pray and I believe that when I do that nothing wrong can happen with me. I feel more confident after I pray.
You come from a family who plays cricket. Do you find yourself with that added responsibility to perform better every time?
Sarfaraz: Yes definitely. My family always wants me to do well. I always want that when I call my family at the end of the day after a match, they should be happy with the way I played.
At 17 years you have played both Ranji Trophy and IPL? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? You feel you can just contribute with the bat or you have more to offer?
Sarfaraz: I want to take each day as it comes and not think too much ahead. I have done it all. It all depends on how the team wants to use me. I can contribute with the ball, bat and can even do wicket keeping.
Sarfaraz is all geared up to play the exciting Rapid Fire round…
Nickname: Panda in the RCB team and at home it is: S.K. Milkha Singh
Favourite Cuisine: Biryani and Khichdi
Favourite Movie: Bhag Milkha Bhag, Lagan and Chandi Chowk to China
Favourite Cricketer: AB de Villiers
Biggest Inspiration to play cricket: My father and mother
Favourite Cricketing shot: I like playing all shots
Favourite cricket ground: Chinnaswamy Stadium
Favourite holiday destination: Australia
Most memorable moment in IPL: Everyone in RCB was so good to me. So I felt really nice. I still can’t believe that I was with such big players in the RCB team.
Your relationship with Chris Gayle: On the first day itself when we met he became my friend. We became very close friends from there on. At the end of the IPL before leaving he told me that when I get married I will send you tickets to come to West Indies. I even went on to keep his nick name as World Boss. I kept that name because when he would come out to bat it looked like he was the World’s Boss with such a good body and height. He liked it a lot when I would address him in that manner. We used to do a lot of mischief and have fun. Whenever anyone would come to take his autograph he would teasingly say that I was his bodyguard.
Feeling of buying a new car: When I was small we would travel by train. Then we bought a bike and would travel by that and the distance also was very huge to travel to and from practise sessions. My father then met with an accident… so I thought that when I would make enough money I would get my father a car. So finally we have 1 now.
Life after IPL: I wish to have a bigger house when I have enough money. I also want to have a small farm where I can keep horses, cattle and animals.
Message to your fans: Keep loving, supporting and praying for me and I promise to do well.