NEW DELHI: The memories of the last Australia tour will always be etched in Mohammed Siraj‘s mind. He lost his father to a lung ailment when he was in Australia, but decided to not go back home and put the country and his duties first.
The right arm-pacer ensured India passed the Australian Test, despite losing multiple key players, with flying colours. Siraj played a stellar role in India’s 2-1 win against the Aussies in their own den. The 26-year-old paid tribute to his late father by finishing the series as the highest wicket-taker for his team, claiming 13 wickets in 3 Tests, including one five-wicket haul.
That series was a significant one in Siraj’s young career and went a long way in convincing the powers that be that he belongs on the big stage.
Now, Siraj is ready for another overseas assignment – India’s tour of UK. Siraj has been included in the Virat Kohli-led 20-man Indian squad for the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and then the five-match Test series against England after that.
(Photo credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images)
“Since I made my debut, I always gave my 100 percent for my team. All I win is a victory at the end of the day. The win gives me a special feeling. The Australia tour gave me a lot of confidence and I am going to carry that same confidence to England as well,” Siraj told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
One man who Siraj credits for always supporting him is India captain Kohli.
Recently during the IPL (which was suspended indefinitely after 29 matches), Siraj was standing outside the RCB dressing room after an IPL 2021 match against Chennai Super Kings which his team lost by 69 runs, when RCB team captain Virat gave him another pep talk.
“Virat bhaiya always says – ‘tere paas ability hai, tu kar sakta hai, tere paas ability hai kisi bhi wicket pe khelne ka, tu kisi bhi batsman ko out kar sakta hai’ (You have the ability, the ability play on any wicket and get rid of any batsman),” Siraj said.
(Photo credit: BCCI/IPL)
“Recently, after our match against CSK, Virat bhaiya came and said ‘Miaan.. tumhare mein jo changes aaye hain.. those are amazing‘ (The changes you have brought about in your bowling are amazing). It will be benefitting our team. Be ready for the England tour. All the best. Keep up the good work. These words from one of the best captains in the world motivate me a lot,” the young pacer said.
SUPPORT FROM VIRAT AND SHASTRI
Siraj was practicing in Australia when the tragic news of his father’s death was conveyed to him by Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri. Siraj rushed to his hotel room, sat down, and cried. He was shattered.
Siraj recalls the support he got from Kohli, who had gone through the same experience while playing domestic cricket in 2006, when he lost his father. According to Siraj, Kohli and team coach Ravi Shastri’s support was crucial for him at what was an extremely tough time for him personally, during the Australia series.
“I had lost my father during the Australia series. I was shattered and not really in my senses. It was Virat bhaiya who gave me strength and support. Mera career Virat bhaiya ke wajah se hai (I owe my career to Virat)” Siraj, who has played 5 Tests, 1 ODI, and 3 T20Is in his career so far told TimesofIndia.com.
Virat Kohli and Mohammed Siraj (Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)
“He (Virat) has supported me through thick and thin. He has always been there for me and in all circumstances. I still remember how I was crying in the hotel room. Virat bhaiya came into my room and hugged me tightly and said – ‘I am with you, don’t worry.’ Those words encouraged me a lot. He (Virat) played just one Test on the tour but his messages and calls motivated me. And that’s why I could perform. In fact, I didn’t have a good season with RCB in the past two years. But he (Virat) was always there to support me. He has backed me a lot,” the 27-year-old from Hyderabad further said.
“Ravi sir always said ‘ tu champion bowler hai humari team ka‘ (You are a champion bowler of our team). And he used to give a hard pat on my back and shoulders. He pushed me to bowl in the nets in the practice sessions in those tough times. At this age, he is still so full of energy,” Siraj signed off.