Sarfaraz hungry for bigger scores
India Under-19s batsman Sarfaraz Khan, who scored 74 in India's 79-run win against Ireland in Mirpur, has expressed disappointment at not being able to convert his fifty into a bigger knock. Sarfaraz's 70-ball effort was the top score in India's win but the batsman said he would have liked to score around "100-150" since he had built up a strong start.
The rest of India's top five batsmen managed only 49 runs together as the Ireland bowlers moved the ball around. The repair work was then done by Sarfaraz and Washington Sundar (62) who led India to a competitive 268 for 9 with a partnership of 110. Ireland's middle order also responded with two fifties but the rest of the batting line-up could not do enough and they were dismissed for 189.
"I should have scored more because I had settled in well," Sarfaraz said. "Hopefully, I will do better in the remaining matches. But it is good to start the tournament with a win.
"I am quite sad because I know if you score big in your first match then you carry that confidence to the next game. But whatever has happened, has happened. I can't keep thinking about it. To do well in the next game is in my control, and I will try to do that. I will try to ensure that the mistakes we did in the last World Cup are not repeated here, and we go on to become the champions."
India captain Ishan Kishan, who got out for a duck in the first over, also rued the shaky start against a side that had lost both its warm-up matches, against Afghanistan and Canada. "I am not that much happy with the batting as we lost early wickets but this was the first match and I am sure we'll learn from this and do better in upcoming matches," Kishan said.
While Sarfaraz admitted there was "slight pressure" on the team, since it was their first match of the tournament, he stated he was not nervous about his performance and wanted to take his time to settle on a pitch that was assisting the bowlers early on. Sarfaraz was joined by Sundar at the score of 55 for 4 and the duo combined for a stand of 110 runs in 17.2 overs, scoring at more than six runs per over.
"The wicket here was seaming a bit initially, but as the wicket improved we got better," Sarfaraz said. "I had thought of taking my own time and it happened like that. But I thought had I batted for a bit longer I could have achieved a big score of 100-150. But, no problem I will get it next time.
"It was a crucial partnership [with Sundar] because we had lost four wickets. He also opens the batting for our team, so I was confident that he would be able to tackle the swing and seam. Our lower order is fine, so we were focused on playing as long as possible."
Does he think India's openers should change their approach and perhaps curb their attacking shots early on given the seam-friendly nature of the Shere Bangla pitch? It is where India will play their remaining league matches.
"The ball will swing, bowlers will do their job, but an individual cannot change his game at this level. Yes, if the batsman understands the situation and plays it is good, but if those shots start connecting then the batsmen following him will have it easy. It depends on the day. Today was my day, it might be the top three's day tomorrow."
Sarfaraz also agreed that the early jolts were a good reality check for the side. It reminded him of India's opening match in the last Under-19 World Cup, against Pakistan, where his 74 had helped them recover from 94 for 4. The difference was that against Ireland he was the senior batsman in the partnership, while two years ago he was helped by the more experienced Sanju Samson.
"Yes, it was a similar situation, though we were 94 for 4 in that game. After that, Sanju and me pulled the team out. Hopefully, in the upcoming matches, we will do well and qualify. That's our first aim. We are going match by match."
The change in role meant Sarfaraz had to take on the onus and adapt to the situation, instead of attacking from the moment he arrived at the crease. "I am an attacking batsman, and till last year I was batting at No. 6, so I had to attack [right from the start]," he said. "This year I am batting at No. 4 so I have to take more responsibility and play. Everyone has a role in the team, and my role is to play as long as possible."
With a different approach and mindset, a fitter Sarfaraz was also on display and the batsman attributed it to spending time with Virat Kohli during the IPL days. "It has happened by seeing Virat bhai," Sarfaraz said with a laugh. "After playing in IPL, you get to learn new things and you try to implement those things in your overall development. From Virat bhai I have learned how much importance to give my fitness."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo