Royal Challengers Bangalore’s decision to retain Sarfaraz Khan during the IPL auction in January took a lot of people by surprise. After a promising debut season in 2015, Sarfaraz was dropped from RCB’s playing XI in the subsequent edition just after five games for his fielding and lack of fitness. The 20-year-old then missed the entire IPL 2017 due to injury. No wonder, Sarfaraz’s retention for INR 1.75 crores has created a lot of buzz.
In an exclusive interview with Sportstar, Sarfaraz admitted that he himself didn't expect to be retained by the RCB franchise.
“I didn't think I was going to be retained. But when I got a call from them, I obviously said yes. Playing under Virat (Kohli) bhai is something else,” Sarfaraz said.
“I was dropped because of my misfields and my fitness,” he added.
Since then Sarfaraz has come a long way, working untiringly with RCB's physical trainers and sticking to a disciplined diet.
“I have more control over sweets now. I eat rice only in the day, and not for dinner. After 7pm, I don't eat anything,” Khan said.
“It used to be difficult two years ago, when this issue first came up. I was very young then and at that age, you don't know everything. If you were in my place, the same thing would have happened with you. There will come more things in life that I will have to learn. I have concentrated mostly on cricket in my life. I have done very little gym-work. I used to think only about cricket as a kid; I wouldn't pay much attention to academics either. Because I only wanted to play cricket and fulfil my father's dream. But as I've started playing at higher levels, I've learnt that fitness-work is important too,” he elaborated.
It is worth mentioning here that Sarfaraz grabbed the eyeballs of the cricketing fraternity with his record-breaking innings of 439 in Mumbai's Harris Shield tournament as a 12-year-old. In 2014, Khan represented India in the Under-19 World Cup as a 16-year-old. A year later, he featured in the cash-rich Indian Premier League and quickly made an impression with a jaw-dropping knock of 45 against Rajasthan Royals at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. He turned up for India again in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup and finished the showpiece event as the second-highest run-scorer.
“I wasn't nervous playing in the IPL at 17. It helped that my father was a cricket coach himself, and had nurtured a couple of IPL players in Kamran Khan and Iqbal Abdullah. So from a young age, I'd been playing IPL bowlers. And at RCB nobody tries to change your game or your technique,” Sarfaraz said.
Talking about sharing the dressing room with a fitness freak leader like Virat Kohli, Khan said: “Virat bhai tho alag hee level ke hain (Virat bhai is on a different level altogether). His time-table is completely different from that of us normal players – his gym-work, his diet, his batting, everything. Virat bhai has so many commitments: so many ads to shoot, so much to sign. On top of that, the tension of captaining the side, picking the team. But there is never a dip in his performance. So how strong must he be mentally?”
Sarfaraz is grateful that the RCB franchise chose to retain his services despite his fitness flaws in the past. Nonetheless, he is taking no additional pressure to prove himself.
“Everyone has something expected of him by someone. Virat bhai is under way more pressure than me. The more you think, the greater the tension. So I choose not to think,” Sarfaraz concluded.