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India Call-Up: Sarfaraz might have to work on his fitness as well as off-field discipline

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New Delhi, June 25 (PTI): Sarfaraz Khan’s non-inclusion in the Indian team for the West Indies tour was criticised by none other than Sunil Gavaskar but BCCI sources claimed that his below-par “fitness level” as well as alleged “off-field conduct” has influenced the decision.

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The Mumbai batter scored 2566 runs in the last three Ranji seasons. He scored 928 runs in the 2019/20 season, 982 in the 2022-23 and 656 in the 2022-23 season)

The 25-year-old has a very impressive career average of 79.65 after 37 red ball games, so it was very surprising that the two-time former India U-19 World Cupper had to make way for someone like Ruturaj Gaikwad, whose career average is 42-plus.

“The angry reactions are understandable but I can tell you with some degree of certainty that the reason behind Sarfaraz getting ignored time and again is not just cricketing one. There are multiple reasons for which he hasn’t been considered,” a BCCI official privy to selection developments told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

“Are the selectors fools to not consider a player who has scored 900 plus runs in successive seasons? One of the reason is his fitness which isn’t exactly of international standard.

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“He has to work hard, maybe shed weight and comeback leaner and fitter as it’s not just batting fitness that is sole criteria for selection,” the source added.

According to the BCCI official, fitness is not the only reason for his non-selection.

“His conduct on and off the field hasn’t exactly been top notch. Certain things said, certain gestures made and some incidents have been taken note of. A bit more disciplined approach would only do him a world of good. Hopefully, Sarfaraz along with his father and coach Naushad Khan will work on those aspects,” the senior official added.

Reportedly, Sarfaraz’s celebrations after his hundred against Delhi earlier this year during a Ranji game, didn’t go down well as the erstwhile selection committee chairman Chetan Sharma was watching that game from the stands.

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Before that, during the 2022 Ranji Trophy final, his conduct during a break had irked MP coach and Mumbai stalwart Chandrakant Pandit.

Asked if IPL performance and perceived weakness against short ball has also contributed to his non-selection, the source replied, “That’s a perception built by media. Do you think there could be any cricketing reason?

“When Mayank Agarwal broke into Indian Test team, he scored 1000 first class runs in one month. Did MSK Prasad’s committee check his IPL credentials? Ditto for Hanuma Vihari, who came through domestic and A team ranks. If their IPL and white ball record wasn’t checked then, why would SS Das’s committee reinvent the wheel now? Simple. The reason is not a cricketing one,” he added.

As of now, it will be difficult for Sarfaraz to make it to the team.

“Just think about it. Why was Sarfaraz not even among the reserves for the World Test Championship? Suryakumar Yadav, Yashasvi Jasiwal were the two reserves after Ruturaj pulled out due to his marriage.”

Right now, according to the pecking order, Ajinkya Rahane is at No. 5 and Gaikwad is the reserve middle-order batter who can also be used as a floater.

So once Rahane fails, most likely Gaikwad will get a chance. Also it is difficult to rule out Suryakumar Yadav, who is playing Duleep Trophy for West Zone. And if Shreyas Iyer gets fit, then the road to an international call-up could get much tougher for Sarfaraz.

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