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Sarfaraz Khan hugs his teary-eyed father after receiving his debut Test cap before the start of the third Test against England in Rajkot on Thursday. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: Indian middle order batter Sarfaraz Khan, who has long been criticised for being overweight, has fulfilled a long-cherished dream after making his debut for the country against England in the third Test at Rajkot on Thursday.

The Mumbai batter has been in prolific form in domestic circuit in the last three years but still could not break into the Indian Test team, loaded with experienced batters.

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“I felt really happy,” Sarfaraz told reporters. “Coming to the ground for the first time and got the cap in front of my father. I was six years old when he started my cricket,” the 26-year-old said. “It was my dream to play for the Indian team in front of him. It was a dream to play for India during his lifetime.”

Sarfaraz was the star batter for India during the Under-19 World Cup held in the UAE. The right-hander was part of the team that had Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Hooda and Kuldeep Yadav. While the rest have played numerous matches for the Men in Blue, Sarfaraz had to wait for his chance. Incidentally, it was his India Under-19 teammate Shreyas Iyer that Sarfaraz replaced in the third Test. The stocky batter made an impressive half-century after waiting for hours to take his guard in the middle.

Centuries by Rohit Sharma and Jadeja

“I was padded for almost four hours. I kept thinking that I have kept so much patience in life and there is no harm in keeping some more,” he said.

“After I went in, I was nervous for first few balls but I have practised and worked so hard that everything went well.”

During that time skipper Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja rescued India from a perilous 33 for three to put on a 204-run partnership to guide the hosts to a comfortable position at 326 for five at close on the first day. Both completed their centuries with skipper Rohit becoming Mark Wood’s third victim after a battling 131. The 36-year-old opener was nervous at the start and could not find his timing, but the advent of Jadeja and the left-right combination slowly eased the pressure on the Indian duo.

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Sarfaraz Khan was at ease after overcoming early jitters to put up a crucial partnership with Ravindra Jadeja in his debut innings. Image Credit: AFP

The left-handed Jadeja is on 110 along with Kuldeep Yadav 1 after an untimely run out ended Sarfaraz Khan’s smashing knock 62 that included nine fours and a six. The debutant took off when striker Jadeja called him for a sharp single to complete his century. However, the all-rounder turned Sarfaraz back, who could not beat the direct throw.

Sarfaraz, who is often criticised for being overweight, has a first-class average of over 69 in 45 matches and a best of 301 not out. He came out to bat after Rohit’s departure and, following a nervous start, found his rhythm with boundaries to entertain the crowd.

Dominant knock

He reached his 50 after a dominant show against the spinners and raised the bat to the applauding father Naushad Khan, mother Tabassum Khan and the Indian dressing room.

Sarfaraz burst into limelight with a record 439 in school cricket in 2009, but his career later hit roadblocks and controversies.

Hailing from a small town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Sarfaraz was once charged with age-fudging after failing a bone test report and was later booted out of a training camp due to indiscipline.

He played the Indian Premier League and was once selected by Royal Challengers Bangalore, but could never cement his place in the XI and was also advised by skipper Virat Kohli to lose weight.

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Sarfaraz Khan celebrates after reaching his half century. Image Credit: Reuters

But Sarfaraz, who plays domestic cricket for Mumbai, is happy to realise a dream his father had set out to achieve. “It was my father’s dream to play for India but unfortunately it couldn’t happen due to some reasons and there wasn’t much support from home then,” Sarfaraz said.

“Then he worked very hard on me and is now doing on my brother. It was the proudest moment of my life.”

Showing plenty of courage

Sarfaraz was finally run out after a mix-up with Jadeja, but his innings left the opposition camp impressed.

“I thought Ben (Stokes) wanted to keep attacking fields so we could create a chance. And fair play to him, he had the courage to go over the top on a few occasions,” England assistant coach Paul Collingwood said.

“He sweeps really well and put the bowlers under pressure. On debut, it takes a lot of courage to come out and play like that.”

— With inputs from AFP