Yashasvi and Sarfaraz: How Mumbai's famed 'sodu nako' spirit binds them together

A day after India’s whopping win in Rajkot, the duo's camaraderie is still the talking point

Yashavi Jaiswal (left) celebrates his double century with Sarfaraz Khan (photo: @BraveOfTheBihar/X)
Yashavi Jaiswal (left) celebrates his double century with Sarfaraz Khan (photo: @BraveOfTheBihar/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Sodu nako is a favourite Marathi catch phrase in Mumbai cricket circles which, when translated, loosely means: don’t let it go. No prizes for guessing that it’s the philosophy with which young cricketers grow up in the Maximum City, and Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sarfaraz Khan, two of the heroes of India's Rajkot win over England, are great believers in it.

The historic 434-run win, India’s biggest ever, has been the culmination of great teamwork, but one of the abiding memories will be Yashasvi and Sarfaraz running toward each other in jubilation — bats raised — after the former reached his second double century in back-to-back Tests. As they walked back to the dressing room after an unbeaten 172-run partnership off 158 balls, Sarfaraz urged the man of the moment to lead the way back to the pavilion.

A heartwarming gesture from the debutant, who himself got the cricket fraternity talking with his busy innings of 62 and 68 not out. Four years Yashasvi's senior at Bandra's Rizvi Springfield School, Sarfaraz showed what Indian cricketers refer to as ‘enjoying each other’s success’ these days as the duo defined a triumph of willpower, patience and of course, skill against all odds.

If Yashasvi’s stories of living in a club tent at Azad Maidan, and finding a surprise benefactor in coach-cum-mentor Jwala Singh had already been well documented, the saga of Naushad Khan and his two sons Sarfaraz and Musheer is no less fascinating. Not only are they products of the same school — which also produced yet another run machine Prithvi Shaw as a schoolboy cricketer — but of Mumbai cricket's inherent sodu nako attitude.  

The Mumbai pair have a chat
The Mumbai pair have a chat
(photo: @surya_14kumar/X)

‘’Yes, there is a lot of similarity in the way these two have grown up but then, the only way for a young aspiring batter in Mumbai is to score daddy hundreds and then some more. It could be the same in some other states as well but go to Cross Maidan on a weekend and you will see thousands of kids playing cricket, all dreaming of being a (Sachin) Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. There is fierce competition and that’s where they realise that piling on the runs is the only way to catch attention,’’ said former Mumbai captain Sishir Hattangadi.

Elaborating on this during a chat with National Herald, Hattangadi said: ‘’For a teenager from a lower middle class or middle class family in Mumbai who is trying to play the sport seriously, nothing comes easy. From getting up in the early hours for early access to the common toilet in the chawl, catching a crowded local train to make it in time for practice, or playing for their clubs — it’s a tough grind, day in, day out.

‘’The cricket field is their only comfort zone. This makes men out of boys quite quickly, and both Yashasvi and Sarfaraz are products of that culture. They have played a lot of cricket together, so the bond is not surprising.’’

A look at their back stories reveals a similarity in the sense that both are natives of Uttar Pradesh. Yashasvi, born in Bhadohi district, took a train from Prayagraj (Allahabad) to Mumbai 15 years ago, while Sarfaraz’s father Naushad moved to Mumbai to make a career out of cricket.

As a 12-year-old, Sarfaraz made his first headline-grabbing score — a giant 434 in a Harris Shield (U-16) inter-school match. Meanwhile, even before Yashasvi changed schools to Rizvi, he was already a prolific scorer in the Giles Shield (U-14), and already hogging the limelight.

“There was a time when he scored 16 hundreds in a year,” his school coach Raju Pathak said in an interview. His appetite for big scores at age-group level served him well as at 17, he became the youngest India player to score a double century in a List A game (Vijay Hazare Trophy).

Sarfaraz, on the other hand, boasts a 69-plus average in first class cricket and piled up runs by the bagful — 928 in the 2019-20 Ranji season and then 982 in 2022, becoming only the third Indian batter after Wasim Jaffer and Ajay Sharma to hit 900-plus runs in two seasons.

What has been the take of captain Rohit Sharma, a dyed-in-the-wool Mumbaikar, on these two? “I have been told that Sarfaraz has scored runs in difficult situations for Mumbai. That shows the mindset with which he plays and how he approaches the game,” Sharma said after the win.

“He has scored big runs… triple hundreds, double hundreds on the domestic circuit. So he is doing something right to be that consistent. We had no plan or discussion with him because I was told by his Mumbai teammates that it is better to leave him free and he will do the job.”

And about Yashasvi? “I won’t say anything on Jaiswal,” Rohit was almost protective. “Everyone is talking about him. Let him play. He is playing well... it’s good for us and he is in good form. I am not going to say much more than that. Itna bas hai abhi ke liye (this should be enough on him for now).”

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