Mohammed Siraj is considered as one of the most promising upcoming fast bowlers in India. And his dream came true when he was included in the national team for the three-match T-20 series against New Zealand. Siraj, who made his international debut against New Zealand at Rajkot on Saturday, gave an exclusive interview to CricketSoccer.com before the start of the series.
Here are the excerpts:
CricketSoccer (CS): Not even two years have passed since you made your debut in Indian domestic cricket circuit for Hyderabad. Then you played Indian Premier League (IPL) and now you have made it to the national squad. How is the feeling?
Mohammed Siraj (MS): I was about to play a Ranji Trophy match for Hyderabad against Karnataka at Shimoga when the opposition players informed me about the maiden national team call-up for the T20 series against New Zealand. But to be very honest, I gave away little in terms of emotions. Obviously, I was very excited about the call-up because it is a dream come true. I knew I had it in me to make it to the Indian team, especially after my performance in the previous Ranji Trophy season and the IPL. Also, playing for India A, I did well against South Africa and New Zealand. The trip to South Africa and matches against New Zealand A has helped me mature as a bowler.
CS: You had the chance to play under the tutelage of legendary Rahul Dravid in the India A team. What advise did Dravid give you?
MS: Well, I was advised by Dravid sir to stick to my natural game. He asked me not to change anything in my bowling. His advice has been pretty simple. Do what has got you success till now. I have followed his instructions and bowled to my strength whenever I get to play. I am grateful to him. At the same time, I would like to thank Bharat Arun sir for his support. I played under his coaching when he was in the charge of Hyderabad state team. He always believed in me and motivated me to do well in the Ranji Trophy. I am quite excited as I would get to play under his guidance again in the national team. Besides these two, I got to learn a lot from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra with whom I have played in the IPL. Especially Bhuvi bhai encouraged me a lot during IPL. He would come up with a lot of valuable suggestions on what areas to hit at the death, the lengths for particular batsmen etc. Hopefully, I can follow those words at the highest level.
CS: What is the impact of IPL on your career?
MS: I firmly believe that the riches earned from IPL has helped me overcome financial hurdles and concentrate on the game only. Life completely changed after the IPL auction. The atmosphere in my house has got a complete makeover. We lived in rented houses earlier, now we own a house. My father, Mohammed Ghaus used to drive an autorickshaw. The day I got an IPL contract, I told my father that I won’t let him work anymore. I also told him that now you can take rest. I feel proud that at 23, I am good enough to shoulder the responsibility of my family.
CS: You have played and performed in the domestic circuit. How important was the role of Ranji Trophy in your career?
MS: Whatever I am today is primarily because of Ranji Trophy performance. My 40-odd wickets last season gave me the confidence. There’s nothing like getting wickets in first-class cricket. I was picked for Rest of India after that. It’s because of Ranji Trophy that I got the IPL deal.
CS: You came into the limelight for your performance in T-20 cricket. And you get to play for India in the same format. Is it your favourite format?
MS: It’s fact that people know me mostly for my performance in T-20 cricket. I have been picked in the national T20 squad. But I am hoping to represent the country in all three formats. I like playing in all formats and as long as I get to represent India, the format does not matter.
CS: You are known for extracting an extra bit of bounce from any surfaces. What do you yourself think to be the strongest weapon of your bowling?
MS: Yes, I can produce bounce from any kind of surfaces. It’s my natural ability to generate bounce at a decent pace despite not being blessed with a very tall frame. But now, I am concentrating on yorkers. I am practising yorkers with tennis balls in the nets. And it makes me a better bowler. I used to play a lot of tennis ball tournaments. That also helps me a lot to bowl perfect yorkers.
CS: You made it to the national team. What’s next?
MS: I want to show consistency and prove my worth. Performing at the highest level had always been my biggest dream. Now I have got the platform. What I have to do is to deliver for my team. I don’t want to do anything extra. Just want to stick to the basics and bowl accordingly.