Sarfaraz Khan opened up about his disappointment of being dropped from Royal Challengers Bangalore and how it helped him motivate himself to get fitter.

A fitter Sarfaraz, 22, recently struck his maiden First-Class triple century for Mumbai against Uttar Pradesh, joining an elusive list of Indian cricketers, and explained how his new fitness regime has earned him a new nickname within the team.

“It’s a proud feeling to return and also join Mumbai’s triple-century club, alongside great players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Wasim Jaffer and Rohit Sharma,” Sarfaraz told ESPNCricinfo.

“I felt good not just about my improved fitness but because it helped me score runs and get a lead. At one point, all my team-mates used to call me ‘panda’ because I used to eat a lot. Now, they’ve started calling me ‘macho’. Actually, very few people know it’s my nickname now,” Sarfaraz goes on to add.”

For four years, Sarfraz was part of RCB camp, scoring 228 runs in 25 matches, before being released from the franchise last year due to lack of form and fitness. The batsman reckoned a conversation with Virat Kohli served as an eye opener which prompted him to alter his habits.

“I was dropped at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2016 because of my fitness. Virat Kohli told me straightaway while there were no doubts over my skills, my fitness was not letting me get to the next level. He was very honest with me about where I was,” he said.

“I knew that is when I had to get fitter. So I started working out, running, doing a lot of cardio. I gave up sweets and tried to improve my eating habits. I won’t say I became obsessed with fitness, but I just made small changes to my diet. If I had two portions of something, I changed it to one portion, and gradually cut down on my intake of junk food.”

Last season, Sarfaraz was picked up Kings XI Punjab for Rs 25 lakh, playing for whom, the batsman had his best IPL season. He scored 180 runs from eight matches an at average of over 27 with one half-century.

“Being released from RCB hurt me in a way, but I couldn’t do much about it. I had one of the best IPLs so far with Kings XI Punjab last year. I was in the midst of my cooling-off period, so I knew that was my only chance to impress,” said Sarfaraz.