Exclusive: Ranji Trophy run machine Sarfaraz should be in Indian team, says Vengsarkar

The bulky Mumbai batsman may have shown only glimpses of his talent in the IPL, but it's in the longer format where he has dominated attacks with unmatched regularity



Mumbai batsman Sarfaraz Khan has completely dominated the Ranji Trophy tournament in India in the past two seasons. (Twitter)
Mumbai batsman Sarfaraz Khan has completely dominated the Ranji Trophy tournament in India in the past two seasons. (Twitter)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 12 Jun 2022, 12:53 AM

Last updated: Sun 12 Jun 2022, 1:13 AM

Away from the glamorous world of the Indian Premier League (IPL), a bulky Mumbai batsman with a huge appetite for runs has been showing Bradmanesque consistency in Ranji Trophy over the past two seasons.

Sarfaraz Khan may have shown only glimpses of his talent in the IPL, but it’s in the longer format where he has dominated attacks with unmatched regularity.

After his match-winning 153 for Mumbai against Uttarakhand in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, Sarfaraz’s first-class batting average soared to 80.42 from 23 matches – second only to the incomparable Don Bradman (95.14).

Sarfaraz, 24, had gone into the quarterfinal clash with scores of 165, 63, 48 and 275 in the previous three Ranji matches this season, having already amassed 928 runs (average 154.66, 100s 3) in the previous season.

Despite Sarfaraz’s staggering consistency, he has never been in the reckoning for India selection and the selectors ignored him again for the team’s rescheduled fifth Test against England next month.

Dilip Vengsarkar, a former chairman of the Indian selection committee who famously fast-tracked a teenage Virat Kohli into the Indian team in 2008, has been ‘very surprised’ by the selectors’ inability to recognize Sarfaraz’s talent.

Former Indian cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar. — AFP
Former Indian cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar. — AFP

“He should have been playing for India at the moment. He has scored tons of runs every time (in Ranji Trophy). And if the selectors are still not convinced, then I am really surprised,” the former Indian captain told Khaleej Times during an interview in Dubai.

“What else can he do to get into the Indian squad? Every year, he has scored more than 800 runs for Mumbai.”

Dismissing the Indian selectors’ apparent concerns about Sarfaraz’s fitness issues, Vengsarkar said the Mumbai batter would not have been able to play so many big innings if he was not fit.

“I have seen him since he was 12. He is a street-smart cricketer. He is always hungry for success. He is very fit and the most important thing is that he can play long innings,” said Vengsarkar.

“He has the ability to win matches, which is very rare in batsmen. He has scored runs against pace, against spin. So what else can he do? He is scoring runs consistently. Once he hits the fourth gear, he is a treat to watch.”

Duleep Trophy key

Unlike the star-studded IPL where promising youngsters are instantly recognized for their efforts against the world’s best players in the T20 format, the road to glory for the top performers in Ranji Trophy isn’t as smooth.

Vengsarkar believes players like Sarfaraz will benefit a lot if the BCCI reintroduces the zonal format in Duleep Trophy and makes it compulsory for India’s Test stars to play in prestigious domestic tournament.

“If they (selectors) are not convinced (about Sarfaraz), then what I would do is to request the BCCI to have the Duleep Trophy on a zonal basis, and make sure that all Test players are available to play. So that they can see the young talent against India’s best bowlers and batters,” Vengsarkar said.

“Now they have made Duleep Trophy into red, blue and green teams, which is not the way to go forward. So make Duleep Trophy zonal again and bring the senior players for a month. They will give the young players in Ranji Trophy a great exposure to play against the best players in the Duleep Trophy.”

Vengsarkar then revealed how Sarfaraz can boost the Indian middle-order if he earns a call-up.

“He is an improviser. And you need somebody to accelerate the scoring rate. A batsman like him helps the team because he keeps the scoreboard moving all the time,” said Vengsarkar, who scored 6868 Test runs with 17 centuries.


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