Continuing his impressive consistency in domestic cricket, Sarfaraz Khan once again reminded national selectors about his ability to win matches after he smashed an impactful hundred for Mumbai on day two of the Ranji Trophy final against Madhya Pradesh at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday.
Sarfaraz, who had ended the opening day on 40 and had a clear understanding of the pitch, lost his partner Shams Mulani off the second ball on Thursday.
At 248 for 6, Mumbai were moving towards an all-out and the onus was on Sarfaraz to bail them out from a precarious situation.
Batting with a lower order batter is never easy but the 24-year-old showed maturity and faced Madhya Pradesh sensibly to keep things in control. He started to open up only after getting to his half-century off 152 balls. He used his sweep shots against spinners to perfection while he stood a foot or two outside the crease to negate the late movement.
The right-handed batter found good support in No 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, who batted out 35 deliveries for 1 run. Sarfaraz, who had taken 152 balls to reach his half-century, calculated his late assault well and reached the century mark in just the next 38 balls. He was the last man out on 134 and rescued Mumbai to keep them alive in the final.
With his first innings score (134), it was the first time Sarfaraz failed to convert his hundred into a 150-plus score in first-class cricket. He has six scores of 150-plus since the start of 2020 in the format, joint-most alongside Joe Root.
After scoring 928 runs in nine innings in the 2019-20 season, the Mumbai batter has already made 937 in eight innings at an average of 133.85, with one more innings potentially left.
Overall, among batters to have made at least 2000 first-class runs, his average of 82.83 is second-best to Sir Donald Bradman, who has 28067 runs to his name at an average of 95.14.
However, Sarfaraz was not always that consistent in his career. He was known for his range of strokes and aggressive hitting in the domestic circles, but his inability to temper down would lead to his downfall often. Apart from inconsistency, his lack of fitness, unhealthy lifestyle and indiscipline were acting as roadblocks in his career. He also moved states in domestic cricket but that also didn't bring much success for him.
But, ahead of the 2019 season, he put in the effort and transformed himself physically. The lengthy training and changes in the diet helped him improve his fitness and has had a great effect on his batting with the right-hander reaping rewards since then, especially for Mumbai.
On Thursday, after scoring his fourth hundred of the season, and eighth overall in first-class cricket, Sarfaraz made his case stronger for national call-up. After the end of day's play, Sunil Joshi, the national selector, caught up with him and had a lengthy conversation with the Mumbai batter.
With two successive seasons of 900-plus runs, Sarfaraz is now strongly on the radar of the national selectors. However, he is focused on the present.
"As far as Team India's selection is concerned, I'm working hard. My focus is to only score runs. Every person has dreams. It will happen if it is written in my destiny," said Sarfaraz.