How Sarfaraz mastered spin: 500 balls per day in nets and a 1600km car journey

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How Sarfaraz mastered spin: 500 balls per day in nets and a 1600km car journey

Monday, 19 February 2024 | PTI | New Delhi

How Sarfaraz mastered spin: 500 balls per day in nets and a 1600km car journey

Sarfaraz Khan's dominating performance against England's spinners in just his debut Test was no fluke. It was the culmination of over 15 years of hard work that involved playing 500 deliveries everyday under the watchful eyes of his zealous father Naushad Khan.

With two confident half centuries in his debut Test in Rajkot, Sarfaraz has shown that he is here to stay in the Indian team. The 26-year-old got his Test cap after years of toiling in the domestic circuit and also honing his skills at his father's 'Macho Cricket Club'.

The hard work and systematic planning of the past few years, especially during the two COVID-19 lockdowns, paid off against the likes of Tom Hartley, Joe Root and Rehan Ahmed in Rajkot.

"It has taken playing 500 deliveries per day from off, leg and left-arm spinners across Oval, Cross and Azad Maidans in Mumbai," said a coach who has seen the Mumbaikar's growth from close quarters.

"...During (COVID) lockdown, he undertook a car journey covering 1600km. From Mumbai to Amroha, Moradabad, Meerut, Kanpur, Mathura and Dehradun, he travelled and played on proverbial 'akhadas' where the ball turns square with one shooting up and few staying down," he added.

The Sarfaraz that was manoeuvering the spinners with ease, honed his skills the tough way.

The credit for the final product lies not just with Naushad though.

Coaches of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sanjay Rastogi), Mohammed Shami (Badruddin Sheikh), Kuldeep Yadav (Kapil Deo Pandey), Gautam Gambhir (Sanjay Bhardwaj) and father of India A captain Abhimanyu Easwaran (RP Easwaran) have also contributed in their little way to make Sarfaraz a finished product.

They all arranged for Sarfaraz's net sessions against spinners, especially during the COVID lockdown.

"During lockdown, Naushad called me as we are both from Azamgarh and we played club cricket in Mumbai when I was employed with the Indian Navy. So, when he wanted his son to get practice, I felt it's my duty," Kapil Pandey told PTI.

"During lockdown, Sarfaraz played Kuldeep a lot at our Kanpur Academy. They did lot of net sessions together. I would arrange T20 matches as that season, Mushtaq Ali T20 was main tournament.

"Having grown up playing on Mumbai's red soil, Sarfaraz has the perfect game against spin and uses his feet well," he added.

Shami's coach Badruddin also spoke about his part in helping Sarfaraz attain mastery of spin.

"Yes, I arranged for his training and nets in Ahmedabad. No doubt both the father and son worked hard. I arranged for his stay in a hostel and got him to play a number of games."

Another coach who has seen Naushad train his sons -- Sarfaraz and India U-19 star Musheer -- spoke about the gruelling training regimen that the two players endured even on non-match days.

"From a young age, he has been playing hundreds of balls. So when Mumbai didn't have a match, Naushad prepared an astro turf wicket at home where Sarfaraz practised against pacers. But the moment he has to play spin, they go to the Maidans and do open field training," he said.

"Even for red-ball training, Naushad would give Sarfaraz simulation training. Suppose Mumbai play Tamil Nadu in Chennai, the bowlers would be asked to create roughs with spikes and then he would be asked to play on a track that resembles a day four pitch with wide cracks," he explained.

The combined effort seems to have got the desired results as was evident from the commanding manner in which Sarfaraz tackled the visiting spinners in Rajkot.

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