The Passion And Meaning Of Being Mohammed Siraj
Md Siraj snapped six wickets against SL (AP Photo)
It could be said, since endless arguments in this case may not really be needed, that while batters win you matches; it’s the bowlers who win you series.
But then these are sayings, you know. Cricket doesn’t work on dialogue or in theory; it’s real-life evidence that it demands.
So responded a certain Mohammed Siraj!
What was evident at the celebrated Premadasa Stadium at Colombo a day ago in Sri Lanka was this very definitive truth about bowlers.
For Mohammed Siraj, quite frankly, at the back of a genius spelling of bowling - fast, accurate, disciplined - routed Sri Lanka and earned India a series win quite single-handedly.
The impact was in the game, but he won India the series.
For sure, the six-for by Siraj shall always be remembered as among the finest and among the most ardent spells of fast bowling and maybe even across formats.
However, on the whole, Siraj’s impact in the much widely watched and closely followed Asia Cup 2023 was in a league of its own.
Purely, going by stats, Siraj’s consistency and ability to constantly pick wickets earned him the second spot in the wicket takers’ table for the 2023 Asia Cup.
Next best only to Sri Lanka’s very own, one of the recent arrivals on the international stage, Matheesha Pathirana, who took eleven wickets, Siraj excelled in taking ten and thereby even reminded us of a sobering fact.
It’s a fact that we may not have been all too prepared for.
All Indian batters were in top form in Asia Cup 2023 (AP Photo)
In the tournament where there was no dearth go quality and highly exciting batting performances, Rahul, Gill and Kohli all scoring vital hundreds with captain Sharma leading by an example with the bat, Siraj’s gunslinging prowess in the all important final reminded us the significance bowlers hold.
And that the recently concluded Asia Cup was, after all, a balanced contest between the supremacy of bowlers and batters, a facet that India will hope stays just the way it is as the team is ever so close on the heels of the mega one day competition: the ODI World Cup.
Though that told, on the whole, rampaging and captivating that his fast bowling was, it wasn’t as though India’s right armer was among the lion’s share of wickets on just one game as witnessed recently.
Barring the earlier game against Pakistan, one held on September 10, Mohd Siraj picked wickets at regular intervals.
It’s refreshing to recount the fact that even in the game against Nepal, a first for India as also for Siraj in the Asia Cup, the Hyderbad express picked a vital three for. Surely the batting on that occasion came good as the opponents did dig in against India in huge contrast to the waning Sri Lankan fortunes that saw the hosts bundled out for 50.
But then who’d have imagined that in the all-important final, India would be assigned the challenge of scoring at a run an over in having to make 51 for victory.
Siraj occupied headlines and deservingly so whilst playing against several big names, each bigger than his own career in such a prime game.
From 1 for 1 to being 2 for 8 and then ultimately sliding down further to 4 for 8 before being nearly humiliated at 12 runs for the loss of five wickets, Siraj didn’t leave much of a task for the celebrated others around him, such as the brilliant Bumrah.
They say the measure of true success is when you are loved by your countrymen and compatriots but even regarded by your opposite numbers. In Mohd. Siraj’s case, his brilliant and ultimately winning spell for India earned rich credit from his biggest opposite number: Dasun Shanaka.
Siraj broke Shanaka's stumps in final (AP Photo)
The earnest Sri Lankan captain, full of praise, lavished the following words for India’s key exponent of fast bowling:
"It was outstanding bowling display from Mohammad Siraj. I thought I will be a good pitch for batters. But India bowled really well, especially Siraj he was outstanding".
Taking his collective wickets tally to beyond 50 in the one day arena, the 6-for-21 should by now have dispelled any doubts whatever about the big match potential of a man who was once one among the million dreamy eyed who endeavoured to break into the national side.
Here he is, a man of pure passion and simplicity, one who’ll enter his first ever ODI World Cup as a talent of his own; not just a support system to the other more experienced pacers playing around him.