Hyderabad: Mohammed Siraj, who has been selected to the Indian Test team that will tour Australia in November, had a nightmarish start to his international career for India in both T20 and one-day internationals. While he returned with figures of 4-0-53-1 against New Zealand in Rajkot in 2017, two years later, in Adelaide against Australia, he went for 76 runs in his 10 overs.
Left-arm seamer CV Milind, who was his pace partner in most of the matches for Hyderabad since 2016, said Siraj always had the potential to play for India. “He has a great attitude and a big heart. His perseverance to fight has made him stronger. Initially, when he started his career, he had a big in-swinger and had a steep bouncer but worked on his out-swingers. I think it is wrong to say he is not effective in white-ball cricket. That spell against Kolkata Knight Riders could give that bit of confidence to shine in white-ball cricket,’’ said Milind.
The 26-year-old Siraj has been a rags-to-riches story. For a boy, who didn’t have money to buy cricket shoes, father being an auto-rickshaw driver and mother working as a maid, it has been one of the fascinating stories in Indian cricket. He was never interested in studies. His mother (Shabana), used to beat him up for playing ‘too much of cricket’, but he had quiet support from his father (Mohammed Ghouse), who always encouraged him. Being obsessed with the game, he would play ‘gully cricket’ where he would bowl very fast, first with a tennis ball and later on with a red ball. While he was playing in one of these night matches, he was spotted and went on to play for Charminar Cricket Club.’’
Abdul Azeem, the former Hyderabad opener, disclosed that Siraj did not have cricket shoes till he was 20 years. “His mother, who worked in my sister’s place, would often say her son was very interested in cricket. He earned some money by playing in the gully cricket. Today, I’m happy that Siraj has risen to dizzy heights,’’ he said.
For Siraj, the decision of the Hyderabad Cricket Association to appoint now Indian bowling coach Bharat Arun as coach of the Ranji Team in 2015-16 season was a blessing in disguise. Siraj acknowledges that Arun played a significant role in his career. “I benefited a lot when he was coach of the Hyderabad team. His inputs proved very useful and we were lucky to have a coach like Arun and captain Badrinath that year. They had a big influence in shaping my career. I’m very lucky in that sense,’’ he said.
There was no stopping, in two years life changed for Siraj, who was signed by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs 2.60 crore in 2017. Later on, he went to RCB and the spell (4-2-8-3), including successive maidens, against KKR the other day was the best in IPL. But he could not share his happiness with his ailing father. Brother Ismail said for the last few days their father had some breathing problems. “He was very delighted when he heard about Siraj’s magic spell and his Test selection,’’ said Ismail. Siraj has since built a big house in Tolichowki from a small two-room house in Khaja Nagar in Banjara Hills.
Siraj had said this IPL will be a big one for him. “If I perform well and win a couple of matches for Royal Challengers, I can stake my claim once again and set the momentum for the new season.”
He has set the ball rolling and he is aware that he can’t waste any more opportunities. “I will be a different bowler when I get the chance to bowl for India again. I would not repeat the mistakes and it will be a new and experienced Siraj.”
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