Looking back at Mohammed Siraj’s journey so far, Secretary of Charminar Cricket Cup, Md Mahboob Ahmed says, “When I picked him to play for Charminar Cricket Club, he was playing with a tennis ball then, and I directly made him play with the hardball. He quickly adapted like everything else that came his way.
It was a bitter-sweet experience for this blue–blooded Hyderabadi, who came back to a rousing welcome from fans, family and friends; but nothing could make up the absence of his father who isn’t there to celebrate the moment with him. On his return he first went to his father’s grave and paid his respects – every wicket that I have taken, I dedicated it to my father,” he reveals. His father was unwell even while Siraj was playing IPL 2020 on the RCB side, and his lung condition continued to get worse when his son left for the test series to Australia. It had been his father’s dream that his son play for India, and he did not want his son to stay back for him.
Unfortunately he died when his son was still in Australia, and Siraj chose not to come back even for the funeral and instead play for the country.
Evidently, he was a bag of emotions on his first day of the first test match in Sydney, when the national anthem played, and he broke down. “When the national anthem played all my years of struggle and my father’s dream crossed my eyes and I could not help it and cried,” he explains.
When his mother saw him after coming back, she broke down, and it was his turn to hold and console her. ‘I had to stay positive for my mother’ – he shares.
When Siraj was first picked for the test matches, he was not in the playing eleven; but as they say in cricket, lady luck smiled on him, and he went onto play three matches and became the highest wicket taker for India with 13 wickets that includes the five-wicket haul during the last winning match of the tour. “There were unfortunate injuries in the team, and there was pressure to perform, and I decided I won’t try too hard or let it affect me. I just went ahead and played,” he relates, and acknowledges his co-players and their support.
Siraj sounds very sorted and mature when he says he won’t let this success get to his head and will not relax. And the same level of maturity he displayed even during his stint in Australia when he did not let the racial abuse by a section of audience affect him, and played on even while dealing with the unfortunate death of his father.
Md Ghouse, Siraj’s father was an auto-rickshaw driver. He worked hard to bring up his children and educate them. His brother was studying engineering and Siraj would always be at the ground, playing cricket. His mother would worry that the younger son was wasting time and spoiling his chances of a better future. He would assure his mother that nothing of the sort will happen, and his father would support him, at all times. Today, he is in Indian team and is earning more money than he ever dreamed of – ‘I never thought of the money I would make; for me it has always been about cricket. I believe in playing with passion, and that will keep you going – he often said in his interviews. After being selected into IPL he made his father stop driving the autorickshaw and was planning to provide his parents, who until then faced hardships, a life of comfort. But, life had other plans.
Siraj never played representative cricket and he was raw and playing League matches when selectors picked him up to play selection matches for Ranji Trophy. That he was selected to play for Hyderabad was a rare affair, which turned into an advantage on the international pitch. Indian coach for bowlers Bharat Arun first saw him when he was a net bowler for Royal Challengers team (RCB). Bharat incidentally became the coach for Hyderabad Ranji team and in the ensuing years has played a significant role in fine-tuning his game and giving confidence to the Hyderabad-based bowler. Siraj had once shared, “Bharat sir has told me – just continue to bowl as you always do. And work hard, always.”
Jyoti Prasad, a former pace bowler and selector from Hyderabad shares, “He used to play league matches and was representing the Charminar Cricket Club when I first saw him. He has had a firm wrist position which not many have. He has always been quick at grasping and utilised all the chances that came his way. After Ranji, he was selected for IPL in the Sunrisers team, followed by RCB, and then he made it to the national team purely based on making the most of the opportunities that came his way.”
Mahmood, Secretary, Charminar Cricket Club saw Siraj as a young cricketer playing with tennis ball. He spotted talent when he saw it. He picked the talented young player directly into league matches where he had to face the tough ball, which, as a first timer, he did with aplomb. “It was a local vegetable vendor Kaleem, who told me to check this player out; he had been observing him practice, I saw him play at Vijay Anand Gardens and found him to be extremely talented and began to make him play for league matches. I used to tell his parents not to worry. ‘You will see him successful and he will make a lot of money, this Siraj, remember!” I would tell his father whenever I visited them.”
Mohammed Siraj is back home, packing in more dreams – I have a long way to go – he says. He is currently eyeing the upcoming England series, and says he will deliver his duties as the team management deems fit.
For now, he has given young players from the gullies of Hyderabad courage to dream big, and he is a story of success that will continue to inspire them.