Mohammed Siraj’s journey from punching bag to heavyweight champ

 

The ball is a lie. Everything about it goes against everything else. And it fools Nitish Rana.

He isn’t ready for it to be pitched up. He is beaten completely by the swing. He hears the wreckage behind him. And for half a second he just stands, suspended in disbelief.

There are wickets that bring great joy to a fast bowler. Most of them involve the stumps being shattered in some form or other. And while that alone is often enough, the sight of a batsman struggling to comprehend what had happened is bliss.

Especially to a player like Mohammed Siraj. He even admitted it was his favorite of the three wickets he took on Wednesday. Big beaming smile on his face, soon after he’d bullied Dale Steyn into taking a photo with him.

“Virat (Kohli) bhai‘s plan was for me to bowl a bouncer,” Siraj would tell iplt20.com later. “But when I was at the start of my run-up, I thought ‘no let me pitch it up’. I pitched it up, and it came out well and I got a wicket.”

Siraj is terrific in domestic cricket. A warrior, really, for Hyderabad, routinely running through oppositions at that level. In only his second season of Ranji Trophy cricket, he found a way to average nearly five wickets a game.

Performances in the shorter format came just as naturally. In the 2018 Vijay Hazare Trophy, he line-and-lengthed his way to three five-fors in six matches.

He even cracked A-team cricket, single-handedly dismantling an Australian side with eight wickets in an innings. That spell of 8 for 59 came on the back of several other ferocious ones. Two five-fors in the same game against South Africa A. Two four-fors against West Indies A away from home.

Siraj had only begun playing with a cricket ball in 2015. His rise is intoxicating.