For someone who was one of the star performers for India in the recently played Test series in Australia and against England at home, 24-year-old Mohammed Siraj is now training his guns to be a regular member of the Indian team for the white-ball format.
“Yes, by the grace of God and thanks to the all-round support of the entire Indian team, I was able to make some impact on the team’s performances in Test matches. Now, aiming to be a consistent bowler in limited-overs formats too,” Siraj said in a chat with Sportstar at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here where he was leading Budding Stars in the HCA League match on Friday.
“Whenever I got a chance I gave my 100 per cent and the best part was that as a bowler I could execute all the plans,” says the bowler, who has 16 wickets from five Tests including a five for 73 in the Brisbane Test in Australia. “Playing for any team and in any match, I always try to give my 100 per cent. I would love to deliver what the team expects from me."
Siraj started the Australia series as the second choice pacer before he finished the tour as the lead pacer due to series of injuries. “Frankly, on the Australian tour, I was not thinking too much about making my Test debut. But, when I got the chance, I just tried to give back everything that I had as a bowler,” he said with a proud smile.
“I must thank the entire Indian team and the support staff for their amazing support during that turbulent phase when my dad passed away [even before the tour began]. It was the biggest challenge of the tour – to stay focused mentally and physically,” he recalled.
“But that desire to fulfil my dad’s dream of playing for the country was what pushed me to stretch the limits,” Siraj said.
How different was bowling in India and in Australia? “Having grown up playing at home, we are quite familiar with the conditions. And, I am conscious we [pacers] will not get the same number of overs we got in Australia. So, the target was to bowl consistently good line and length and get a couple of breakthroughs in those four-over spells,” he said.
“In Australia, the line had to be different because of the bounce in the wickets. Either way, the key is to be patient and build pressure,” Siraj said.
What next? “Focusing on my fitness as I did right through the lockdown. No way to relax and every day I look at it as a learning experience, working to improve in bowling and also my batting,” Siraj said.
Going back further, the Hyderabad pacer thanked Rahul Dravid and Indian team bowling Bharat Arun coach for guiding him right through his India A career which gave him a lot of confidence and self-belief.
“Arun Sir’s advice when he was with Hyderabad Ranji team was simple – focus on your line and length and fitness. Don’t think too much about taking wickets. You have the skills and all you need is to be consistent,” Siraj recalled.
For Siraj, the Australia tour stands to be the most memorable of his short Test career. "I was not sure of getting a chance in the Test series. And that five-wicket haul was the most unforgettable performance for me so far,” he said.
On the England series, he said, “Setting up England captain Joe Root’s dismissal in the Test series at home was another high-point for me. He is such a world class player and to get him out that way was really satisfying, for my plan worked on that day."
“Now, the target is to keep doing well in future. Well, I am ready for the challenge of doing well in ODIs and T20s if given the chance,” he said.
On the World Test championship final match against New Zealand in June in England, Siraj is excited about it. “If I get the chance, it will be like a World Cup for me,” he said.
He will next be gearing up for the new IPL season with Royal Challengers Bangalore. “Well, the IPL preparations will begin with the camp likely to start on March 22. I am hoping to improve upon my last season showing which was not satisfactory,” he said.
On the message for the young talent, the India bowler said it is imperative to have the desire to play for the country. “It may be a long way. Since selection is not in our hand unlike performances, we have to be consistent, patient and have the confidence of making it big.”