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‘Mumbai mulga’

Updated on: 18 February,2024 05:01 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rahul da Cunha |

Would he end up being the Crown prince, never the king? And yet, KL Rahul’s injury hadn’t healed, fate had no option but to gift Safaraz Khan his India cap.

‘Mumbai mulga’

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul Da CunhaSarfaraz Khan, I have a massive soft spot for the ‘Mumbai mulga’—after all we both played on the same ground as kids—Cross Maidan, Churchgate. He plays his cricket like a schoolboy—eager, earnest, effervescent—huge underdog, will he ever get his chance, we wondered.

He waited, his father waited, for years. Plundered thousands of runs in domestic cricket, he was as they said, “knocking down the doors for the selectors to listen”. Was anyone listening?

“Knock knock who’s there?” 
“Sarfaraz, who?” 

Would he end up being the Crown prince, never the king? And yet, KL Rahul’s injury hadn’t healed, fate had no option but to gift Safaraz Khan his India cap.

On Wednesday, when Patidar fell, we were 33-3, the Poms were on song, spewing fire, someone in the dressing room took a clever call, Dravid perhaps, not to send the debutant in, Sarfaraz would have been badly exposed, to cement a place and to save a team… that would have been epic multitasking, the world watching, his father tense, his wife tense—and if he’d failed, he’d be back in Kurla practicing in his backyard, doomed never to return. 

And yet, he had to wait four hours, padded up while Rohit and Jadeja did their rescue act—and then he bustled in, scored the joint fastest Test fifty on debut.

Jaddu ran him out… that unfortunate moment as much part of folklore, as if he’d got a century—massive public sympathy followed, Insta reel after Insta reel of him hugging his dad, Naushad Khan, wiping his wife’s tears, his pain at being run out.

So I have some advice, Sarfaru bhai, take it or leave it. 

There’s something so “Mumbai” about your vibe.

A “hey bhai ball phenko yaar” feel about your game.

A cheekiness that goes with the majesty, Sunny had it, Sachin had it

I wish you well… you have grit, you have gumption… you have a “galli” mentality, but your girth, man… some treadmill, the boy needs, Naushadbhai. Some push ups maybe, he’s inherited your frame, unfortunately!

Virat dropped you from the RCB team some years ago, told you to get your fitness act together—you haven’t listened.

Look, I’m saying, please keep the individuality, heavensent at this time, when everyones a clone, with their manicured “daadhees”, no “maa-behen” ki gaali, only galli cricket approach, don’t satisfy the hunger yet, the wolves are waiting at the door when the big daddy’s return.

Sarfaraz, you are a child-adult, only you can decide where your future goes—you’re already 26—I suspect because of your fitness, you wont make the T20 or ODI teams, only Tests for you. 

Rohit and Rahul will support you up to a point, obviously. 

Indian cricket is in an odd, illogical place at the moment—some players are getting an awfully long rope, Shubham Gill for one, already a superstar inspite of his struggles—your Mumbai mate Yashashvi Jaiswal, he has the blue blooded credentials.

You were asked how it felt to have waited so long to bat.

You responded with—“I’ve waited so long, what’s another four hours”.

And on your unfortunate dismissal—“Cricket mein hota hai, it is part of the game, kabhi run, kabhi run out”.

The fairy tale beginning needs a long format middle and an extended end, my instinct is you don’t have the X factor needed to survive in our cricket system—sure you can bat, but the glam, the godfathers, the endorsements, the ads, may not come your way—you also won’t be allowed the “nonsense” that Hardik has been permitted. Keep your head down, as last week’s birthday boy GR Vishwanath did all through his career. Keep those runs ticking as the clock ticks.

Let history remember you as the boy who stood on the burning deck, not the lad who burnt his career. 

Go well, bhai, go well. 

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at

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