'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle's three-word message to Sarfaraz Khan after maiden India call-up wins hearts
Sarfaraz Khan, who has displayed phenomenal form in the domestic circuit, was included in the squad alongside Washington Sundar and Saurabh Kumar. The trio earned their spots in the side following the absence of KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, and Virat Kohli.
A day after Sarfaraz Khan's name was included Team India's squad for the second Test against England, starting from February 2 in Vishakhapatnam, legendary West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle congratulated the Indian batter for his maiden call-up. Sarfaraz Khan, who has displayed phenomenal form in the domestic circuit, was included in the squad alongside Washington Sundar and Saurabh Kumar. The trio earned their spots in the side following the absence of KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, and Virat Kohli.
Chris Gayle took to Instagram to send his wishes to Sarfaraz Khan. Tagging the Indian batter along with a photograph of their together, the 'Universe Boss' said, "Go get em."
Gayle and Sarfaraz have previously shared the dressing room first during their stint in the IPL with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and then as Punjab King players. While the West Indian power-hitter is lauded as one of the greatest players in the IPL, Sarfaraz has failed to make a mark in the cash-rich T20 league. Khan, who was released by Delhi Capitals last year, also went unsold in the IPL 2024 auction recently held in Dubai. The 26-year-old innovative batter is someone who would have been expected to find a team, but was left without any takers in the auction.
However, Sarfaraz has consistently been among the top run-scorers in domestic cricket for the past three seasons. His remarkable display for India A, including a superb 161 against England Lions, further strengthened his case for a spot in the national team.
India faces a selection conundrum ahead of the second Test against England following untimely injuries to key players Ravindra Jadeja and K L Rahul. Both Jadeja and Rahul played pivotal roles in the first Test in Hyderabad before England staged a remarkable comeback, leaving India grappling with their absence.
Jadeja suffered a hamstring injury during the Hyderabad Test while Rahul complained of pain in his right quadriceps, adding to India's woes after a shocking defeat at home. Their unavailability, coupled with Virat Kohli's absence due to personal reasons, presents a significant challenge for the Indian team as they prepare for the Visakhapatnam Test.
To bolster the squad, selectors have added three players - Sarfaraz Khan, Sourabh Kumar, and Washington Sundar. These additions offer India several options to address the gaps left by Jadeja and Rahul. Rajat Patidar emerges as a likely replacement for Rahul in the middle-order, while Kuldeep Yadav could fill Jadeja's spot as the third spinner alongside R Ashwin and Axar Patel.
Alternatively, India may consider emulating England's strategy from the first Test by playing only one pacer and opting for four spin options. In such a scenario, Mohammed Siraj could make way for Kuldeep, while Sarfaraz Khan or Washington Sundar could fortify the middle-order. Sourabh Kumar, with his left-arm spin and batting prowess, also presents a compelling choice for selection.
The ACA-VDCA Stadium in Visakhapatnam, known for its batting-friendly pitch, adds another layer of complexity to India's selection dilemma. Spin legend Anil Kumble believes wrist spinner Kuldeep's inclusion could prove beneficial, especially if the pitch favors spin. However, India must also devise unconventional strategies to counter England's relentless sweeping tactics, which put the spin trio under pressure in the previous Test.
Amidst the selection deliberations, left-handed batter Washington Sundar emerges as a strong contender. Having showcased promise in his four-Test career, Sundar's utility as an all-rounder adds depth to India's lineup.