Mohammad Siraj battles the odds to make his parents proud
Published - Jan 2, 2017 6:12 am | Updated - Jan 4, 2017 5:38 am
When Mohammad Siraj, the Hyderabad fast bowler, would spend day after day playing street cricket and local tournaments, his parents weren’t much happy. His older brother was already into engineering and his parent wanted the same for him. His mother tried to mend him with a stricter approach and even gave him few beatings for his cricket obsession.But the budding right arm fast bowler was defiant and didn’t let such pressure lose his love for the game.
Now, a few years later, his parent are convinced and relieved seeing witnessing Siraj quickly emerge as one of the most promising fast bowlers in the country. Bowling raw pace is his passion. The twenty-two-year-old found his calling in playing cricket. In his first full Ranji Trophy season itself, the bustling pace bowler has carved a niche for himself by becoming the third top wicket taking bowler at the end of the quarterfinal phase with 41 wickets.
“Yes, it was at times difficult meeting both ends. But my father never discouraged me from playing cricket. Today, he is a very happy man seeing him in the media headlines and taking wickets for Hyderabad. I dedicate my wickets to my parents, who have sacrificed a lot for me’’ said Siraj in an interview.
Mother Shabana Begum recalls that his son was always involved in the game but a poor background made her insecure about her son’s gamble to pursue cricket as a career. His mother’s worries for a settled future of her youngest son were legitimate. His father Mohammad Ghouse plies Auto Rickshaw in the city to earn the bread for his family.
“I was very worried about him as he was always on the streets playing cricket. I even beat him many times and taunted him that when his elder brother Ismail was an engineering student, the younger one never concentrated on his studies. He gave me sleepless nights,’’ she said.
“But that did not deter Siraj from slipping away to play his favourite game. I was very scared about his future. Today I’m happy that he has become a good cricketer. But it is all Allah’s blessings.’’
Although he is into the second year of first class cricket, his familly’s financial woes have not ended. “My husband is a sugar patient. At times, it is difficult to manage the house and I even worked as a housemaid to make both ends meet till a year ago before Siraj asked me not to work anymore,’’ said Shabana, who hopes a good Samaritan would offer her son a good job so that he could concentrate in his game.
Coming to his game, Siraj blossomed from the ‘gully cricket’. “It was a lot of fun,” said Siraj. “I used to take plenty of wickets in the small tournaments. Two years ago, one of my friends asked me whether I’m ready to play for Charminar Cricket Club which plays in two-day league. I was excited but at the same time, I was in a dilemma as I did not have shoes for the game. Till then I never had the experience of playing cricket in whites.’’
In the very first season, Siraj was among wickets as he took as many as 59 wickets. “I think I became serious about the game when I got a five-wicket haul in one of the matches. I believed I could play higher grade.’’
His sheer pace caught the eye of the senior selection committee. P Jyothi Prasad, chairman of selectors, said Siraj impressed with his pace. “We were looking for a bowler who could bowl with good pace and Siraj proved a good investment for us,’’ said Prasad. The pace bowler was selected for the Hyderabad under-23 team.
Siraj, who hails from Khazanagar in Banjara Hills, straightaway justified his inclusion by capturing 29 wickets in the all-India under-23 cricket tournament. His best was against Jharkhand when he scalped 4 for 65. He owes his good show to coach Arjun Yadav. “I was new to big cricket but Arjun sir guided me and told me the importance of line and length,’’ said Siraj.
After poor time last season where he played in only one game against Service, Siraj was able to take only one wicket but selectors looked at him as the one for the future.
In the following season, the selectors continued backing Siraj along with the likes of Ravi Kiran and CV Milind and the move paid off for the association.
“We benefited hugely as Arun sir played a big role in making me a more incisive bowler. I could get my yorkers and the in-swingers right. It made me feel good. The coach never told me to sacrifice on pace.’’
Siraj’s best came in the last match against Mumbai in the quarterfinals where he took nine wickets, including five in the first innings. “I felt very happy when I bowled Shreyas Iyer with the ball coming in sharply. It was also my first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.’’
“I have to perfect the art of the out-swingers. With the guidance of Arun sir and my coordination with Ravi Kiran and Milind, we have become a formidable unit.’’
The Hyderabad fast bowler now aims to grab more attention with some good performance in the T20 format. He wishes to bowl in the Indian Premier League seeking an opportunity to bowl against some of the best in the business.
“Perhaps, a good show in T20 could attract the IPL teams. I would love to play in IPL as I can bowl against the best teams and players.’’
Talking about his inspirations, Siraj names Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc and South Africa pace ace Dale Steyn as his cricketing role models.
“Starc has a very good yorker while I like the reverse swing of Steyn.’’