Mohammed Siraj has had a sensational 12 months that has seen him rise rapidly up the ICC rankings to become one of the best fast bowlers in the world. His 6/21 match-winning spell in the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka was just the latest demonstration of his brilliance with the ball. But how did the Hyderabadi, who started as a club level tennis ball bowler, transform into one of the most feared seamers in international cricket today?
Siraj’s journey has been built on his natural talent, sheer hard work, unwavering self-belief and the support of mentors. Despite his humble background, Siraj always dared to dream big and put in the hard yards to get there. His story is one of focus, perseverance and single-minded dedication to perfecting his craft.
Innate Ability to Swing the Ball at Pace
Siraj has been blessed with the rare ability to swing the new ball at high pace consistently. His natural wrist position and seam presentation allows him to curve the ball both ways to trouble the batsmen. Even during his teenage years, Siraj was able to move the ball precociously.
In first-class cricket, Siraj utilised his outswing to great effect with the new ball. He would then use his height and high-arm action to generate disconcerting bounce that forced batsmen on the backfoot. With the older ball, Siraj had the skill to get it to reverse swing prodigiously.
These attributes meant Siraj was a genuine wicket-taker right from his first-class days. His ability to make the ball talk at speed made him a prized scalp for IPL franchises. It was this natural talent that fast-tracked him into national reckoning.
Dedication to Fitness and Training
Physical fitness and cricket-specific training have played a massive role in Siraj’s emergence. From his junior days, Siraj has been devoted to fitness training. He regularly does strength work in the gym to build muscles and prevent injury. On the field, Siraj does intensive net sessions, gradually building up his workload.
Siraj’s grueling training routine has improved his stamina and endurance. He can now maintain a consistent 140+ kph speed even after multiple spells. It has also enhanced his control and helped him add variations to his bowling.
The extra yards Siraj has put in through dedicated training sessions have strengthened his body and improved his skills. It has equipped him with the tools to succeed consistently at the international level. Without his monastic commitment to fitness and practice, Siraj could not have risen this high.
Mental Toughness and Self-Belief
A key ingredient in Siraj’s success is his mental fortitude and self-belief. Siraj has immense confidence in his abilities and backs himself to excel, even in high-pressure situations. When he suffered personal tragedy during India’s 2020-21 tour of Australia, he persevered admirably and registered a 5-wicket haul in Brisbane.
Siraj also displays tremendous discipline and resilience. He has the ability to bounce back after an ordinary spell and stick manfully to his plans. Even when batsmen are dominating, he shows courage by pitching the ball up and going for wickets.
This mental tenacity sets Siraj apart from other talented bowlers. His inner belief and composure under pressure have been instrumental in his evolution into a world-beater.
Support and Guidance from Seniors
Although Siraj’s talent and work ethic have been crucial, the support and guidance from seniors have also boosted his career. In the IPL, bowling coach Bharat Arun and mentors like Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped Siraj improve his skills. Kumar gave Siraj invaluable tips on swing bowling that amplified his strengths.
In the Indian team, captain Virat Kohli reposed immense trust in Siraj’s abilities. Veterans like Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav allowed Siraj to learn the nuances of fast bowling at the highest level. Head coach Rahul Dravid has carefully managed Siraj’s workload while providing tactical inputs.
This support system has nurtured Siraj into the champion bowler he is today. Their belief in Siraj reinforced his own self-belief and gave him the platform to succeed.
Siraj’s sensational rise is a testimony to what natural talent, dedicated training, mental strength and guidance from mentors can achieve. In a few years, Siraj has gone from bowling on the streets of Hyderabad to sending down unplayable deliveries at over 140 kph for India.
At just 27, Siraj is only likely to get better. If he maintains his current trajectory, Siraj could become India’s pace spearhead in all formats and one of the all-time great fast bowlers of world cricket. For now, his meteoric ascent up the bowling charts has been a heartwarming story of triumph against odds.