Fairy tales generally make no difference to the real world, but the Boxing Day Test at the MCG provided such an unlikely climax to one particular life story, and that is Mohammed Siraj.
It was a case of Siraj replacing his namesake Mohammed Shami, who had his arm broken by a short ball in Adelaide. With India suffering a hammering defeat, these were big boots to fill. After struggles with injury and inconsistency, Shami, along with Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav, had become an indispensable member of India’s pace attack over the past couple of seasons. His loss left India’s fast-bowling trident with a missing prong. Enter Siraj.
And to his huge credit, he not only made a remarkable debut-but also left his mark on the opposition in every sense. Lanky Siraj had a wonderful debut picking up two crucial wickets that helped India skittle out Australia for 195 runs on the first day of the Boxing Day Test-which India went on to win.
In terms of cricketing pedigree-Sirja’s rise to the top is nothing short of a fairytale. Having made a relatively late foray in professional cricket, Siraj made an instant name for himself with some telling displays for his some-state Hyderabad.
The most impressive part about his debut was, he bowled with pace and swing and with a lot of fire in his belly. His disciplined yet aggressive bowling has seen him emerge as a lethal weapon.
India’s stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane, went out of his way to praise his commitment and ability. It was a dream debut in many ways for the 26-year old.
Mohammed Siraj: early beginning
Ever since his domestic debut, Siraj has been identified as a wholehearted cricketer. A warrior, really, for Hyderabad, routinely running through oppositions at that level. In only his second season of Ranji Trophy cricket, he found a way to average nearly five wickets a game.
Performances in the shorter format came just as naturally for the right-hand medium-pacer. In the 2018 Vijay Hazare Trophy, he line-and-lengthened his way to three five-fors in six matches.
Since representing Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017, Siraj’s Indian Premier League (IPL) career has been topsy turvy. By now, he was leading his team’s pace attack in Ranji Trophy and also featuring with wickets for India A. Even as his IPL career went up since he joined Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2018. In many ways, that was the breakthrough year for him as he had scalped a bucketful of wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Impressed by his consistency, Siraj’s RCB skipper Virat Kohli had said that the bowler had to face a lot of criticism last year and he has worked hard to make a comeback.
Mohammed Siraj’s father died from a lung condition in November. Siraj missed the funeral to stay on this tour and broke through for a Test debut on Boxing Day. A monumental sacrifice, and it would be so disappointing to have that achievement soured by racism at the SCG. #AUSvIND
— Sam Landsberger 🗯 (@SamLandsberger) January 10, 2021
Mohammed Siraj: The wicket-taker
Like many cricketers of his generation, Mohammed Siraj started off as a tennis ball cricketer who got hooked to the game after helping his school win an inter-school tournament. His first full season with the Hyderabad Ranji side was in 2016. The deceptive pace and the ability to move the ball meant Siraj’s rise has been rapid since. In that year, he picked 41 wickets, galvanising Hyderabad to the Ranji Trophy knock-outs for the first time in five seasons.
And that wicket-taking ability is what makes his special. Even in Australia, Siraj has taken 8 crucial wickets to help India’s cause in his maiden Test series as an Indian Test player.
With so many injured or missing, Siraj-making his debut with the team down in dumps had his task cut out for the Boxing Day Test. Two Test matches later, the young and able shoulders of Siraj are embracing the mantle of leading India’s bowling attack. Well and truly, this would make his late father proud!
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