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Went to Ajmer dargah to pray for World Cup fortune: Sarfraz Ahmed's Indian uncle

On the morning after the Ireland game, when approached by Indian photographers, the man of the hour Sarfraz said, “Achha kheenchna, India mein mere mamu rehte hein, dekh kar bahut khush honge (Take a good snap, my uncle stays in India, he will be very happy to see it).”

Sarfraz Ahmed prays on reaching his century against Ireland

When opening batsman and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed was proving to be the unlikely saviour of Pakistani fortunes at the World Cup, prayers were being answered offered by his Indian uncle from Uttar Pradesh, a clerk at Etawah Agricultural Engineering College, Mehboob Hassan.

Sarfraz was not picked in the Pakistan team for the first few matches, but lit up the World Cup stage with his 150 runs and 6 catches against South Africa and Ireland. Both were matches Pakistan needed to win to stay in contention for a place in the knockout phases, and the motormouth keeper was instrumental in both victories.

On the morning after the Ireland game, when approached by Indian photographers, the man of the hour Sarfraz said, “Achha kheenchna, India mein mere mamu rehte hein, dekh kar bahut khush honge (Take a good snap, my uncle stays in India, he will be very happy to see it).”

50-year-old mamu Mehboob Hassan, like many others, could not comprehend why Pakistan’s only specialist wicketkeeper was not being included in the side for the first few matches. He skyped his sister in Karachi, Sarfraz’s mother Akila Banu, hoping to get an answer. “She told me to pray for Sarfraz and asked me to visit Khwajasahab’s dargah in Ajmer.”

Prayers answered, the doting maternal uncle says another trip has to be made once the World Cup is over. “Mannat jo maangi hai, puri karni padegi (I will have to do it since I have asked for a blessing).”

Sarfraz was never scared of anyone: Hassan

Hassan speaks fondly of his trip to Pakistan last year to watch Sarfaraz play a match at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. He proudly emphasises the fact by saying it twice, “Fly karwaaya hum sabko Lahore se Karachi, Sarfraz ne (Sarfraz flew us over from Karachi to Lahore).”

The TV cameras haven’t yet reached Etawah but Hasan does have company while watching cricket. He says, “Everybody here knows that Sarfraz is my nephew, so they keep calling.”

Similar scenes are enacted in a Lucknow engineering college hostel, where Sarfraz’s cousin and Hasan’s son Salman studies. Salman and Sarfraz are quite close, and as the cousin says with relish, “We are on WhatsApp most of the time.”

Salman would have loved to play in the backyard with his cousin but distances don’t allow that. He says, “Here in my hostel everyone knows he is my cousin, so many of them called me to congratulate me when he scored a hundred”.

Sarfraz’s uncle speaks of how unmanageable the future hero was as a child, “I would take him and my sister for shopping. This boy was barely five years old, he would jump and sit on the counter. Once we went to a thela (cart) to buy something, Sarfraz started eating before I could even ask the cost,”

The proud uncle concludes, “Darta nahi tha kabhi kisi se (He was never scared of anyone).”

These are happy days at Sarfraz’s home in Karachi. The gloveman joked, “My sisters are giving interviews on news channels, I have told them that just be ready when we lose!”

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