Hyderabad’s Mohammed Siraj has created history by chalking up his name as India’s best bowler at the Lord’s cricket ground. His match haul of eight wickets for 126 runs was the best by any Indian bowler on the famous ground. The previous best match haul was by Kapil Dev who had taken 8 wickets for 168 runs in 1982. Thanks to the superb bowling of Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, India romped home to a 151 run victory which had seemed impossible at one stage.
It was made attainable also by the great fight back by tailenders Bumrah and Shami who added 89 for the 9th wicket. With their gutsy display, the two of them made up for the lack of form in the top order. It was the best 9th wicket stand for India at Lords, overtaking 66 by Kapil Dev and Madan Lal in 1982. According to Harsha Bhogle, this will be ranked as one of India’s most memorable victories.
Coincidentally, the victory came one day after India celebrated its 75th Independence Day from British rule. Former England captain Michael Vaughan admitted that England had been crushed by the Indian team which showed great courage and determination of the highest order.
Siraj captured 4 wickets for 94 runs in England’s first innings and then followed it up with another 4 wickets for only 32 runs in the second innings as England collapsed like a house of cards. It was highly refreshing to see an Indian pace quartet demolishing the England team. Earlier it was the spin quartet of Prasanna, Chandra, Venkat and Bishen Bedi. But now India has a pace quartet which can do the job just as effectively.
Siraj’s fast bowling has come in for high praise from many experts. A few months ago V.V.S. Laxman, speaking to siasat.com, had predicted that Siraj would prove to be a match winner and the prediction came true yesterday. Sachin Tendulkar, Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh are among those who have heaped praise on the Hyderabad speedster.
Recently even Dale Steyn, himself a feared fast bowler, also said in an interview that when he saw Siraj in action he immediately knew that he would succeed in a big way because his attitude was right. It is one of the reasons that make him special, said Steyn.
To analyse the pacer’s career thus far, siasat.com spoke to former Test cricketer and Hyderabad captain Narasimha (Bobby) Rao who had coached Siraj at the Hyderabad Cricket Association’s academy when Siraj was beginning his career. Bobby Rao was the Director of the Academy then.
“Siraj has come a long way since he began his career. I remember him coming to the HCA Academy when he was a raw young pacer. He had a lot of talent but it had to be fine tuned which is what we did when he was undergoing training at the HCA Academy. Now he has gained in stature and confidence and I am so glad every time I see him performing well,” said Rao.
“He has gained pace and accuracy. He can land the ball in the right place along the right line and create difficulties for every batsman. His variations and the way he gets the ball to move are remarkable. I really admired the way he bowled yesterday to Sam Curran and Moeen Ali. Sam Curran is a dangerous player and both are capable of putting up a fight in the lower order. Had they stuck around for half an hour more, then the story may have ended differently. But Siraj got rid of both. He knows exactly what he has to do against left handed batsmen,” said Rao.
“But I am a trifle disappointed that he missed a five wicket haul. Had he been able to take just one more wicket, either in the first innings or in the second, he would have been in that elite list of bowlers who have taken five or more wickets at Lords. His name would have been written on the Lord’s Honours Board. That would have been a great achievement for a Hyderabad player,” said Rao.
Asked what Siraj should do for maintaining fitness, Rao said that he had worked on that issue with Siraj at the HCA Academy. “I had chalked out a plan for all the trainees and I am glad that their fitness improved a lot. I had also made up a diet plan and instructed the players about their daily diet. Now, Virat Kohli is very particular about fitness and I am sure he will keep all the players including Siraj in fit condition,” Rao concluded.
Perhaps the best congratulatory message for Siraj came from former international cricketer Mohammad Kaif. He wrote on social media: “You fulfilled your Abba’s dream, stood up for your team. People take a lifetime to do all this Miyan. You did it in months. Keep smiling Siraj and never lose your innocence.” That was Kaif’s message to the bowler from Hyderabad whose nickname is “Miyan Magic”.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.