Mohammed Siraj, who played a significant role in India’s historic Test series win in Australia, had an emotional homecoming on Thursday when he drove straight from the airport to the burial ground to pay his respects to his father Mohammed Ghaus who passed away before the start of the series.
“I badly missed him today. It was the most difficult time for me to be there at his burial place. I was just circling unknowingly, never thought would have go to through such a phase,” Siraj said on arrival from Australia.
“Well, when I met my mom on entering my home today (first time after his father’s death), she was continuously crying. Those were truly emotional moments,” he recalled.
“But, it was she who went all out to encourage me to stay back and play for the country and not think of coming to India to attend to my father’s final rites. Those were tough times, very confusing and was not sure what to do. I should thank my entire Indian team and the support staff for the wonderful support they have extended,” Siraj explained.
Reflecting on the series, the 26-year-old pacer said he never thought he would get a chance to play a Test. “But, once I got the opportunity I decided to look at it like one of those India-A games so as not to invite any pressure,” he said.
“It was a different kind of challenge to play for India and honestly I enjoyed without thinking too much. Every team-mate said - you have in it you to make it big. Just stay focused and give your best,” he said.
“Frankly, the thought that I was the most experienced bowler (with three Tests in the bowling attack) didn’t occur to me. We were all determined to give our best and glad to have contributed to the team’s win eventually,” he said.
Reflecting on the styles of captaincy of Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, Siraj said both were very good with the same objective - to see India win.
“All the youngsters were encouraged a lot and made to believe in themselves. Even when we were not good on the field sometimes, Ajinkya always trusted the youngsters. Never had a harsh word. Kept on encouraging us,” Siraj said.
Looking ahead at the England series, Siraj is determined not to feel complacent after the performances in Australia. “I should look at them as a benchmark, not to relax, take it in right spirit and try to keep improving,” he said.
“I am still a boy learning the art of bowling. There is lot to improve and play my heart out whenever I get a chance to represent India which was the biggest dream of my father too.”
Siraj also lauded the contribution of fellow Hyderabadi Hanuma Vihari (though the latter represents Andhra in Ranji Trophy) reminding that he got his Ranji debut cap from the middle-order batsman. “Vihari gave a lot of confidence on this tour,” he said.
On the bio-bubble, the fast bowler said it was really depressing and a different kind of mental challenge. “But, yes, it also taught us some lessons like having a strong mindset. Especially, once on the cricket field, the focus was completely on the game, like someone doing his job and nothing else,” Siraj concluded.