In the final part of this three-part series comes Mohammad Siraj.
Hailing from Hyderabad, the Hyderabad cricket team is famous for producing batting stalwarts Mohammad Azharuddin and VVS Laxman. But if Siraj were to make his Test debut in the Border-Gavaskar trophy this summer, then he’ll become the first fast bowler to make his Test debut from the Hyderabad cricket team.
When did Siraj make his first-class debut? Siraj made his first-class debut in November 2015 for Hyderabad against Services. The right-arm quick’s debut didn’t go to plan, taking a sole wicket (0-78 and 1-30). Dropped from the Hyderabad team, Siraj wouldn’t play another Ranji Trophy game during the 2015-16 season.
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When did he take his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket? It would take Siraj 11 first-class games to take his maiden five-wicket haul in first-class cricket. In the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Mumbai, Siraj took 5-52 in Mumbai’s second innings, removing the likes of Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav in a strong Mumbai line-up. But his feats wouldn’t be enough in the match as Mumbai defended 231 and won by 30 runs.
When did Siraj rise to prominence? Siraj’s rise to prominence happened very quickly compared to other Indian quicks. Having picked up a leather cricket ball at the age of 21, his quick rise was unexpected. Leading the Hyderabad pace attack in just his second season of professional cricket, Siraj picked up 41 wickets at an average of 18.92 in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, and suddenly, India had a quick who was capable of bowling fast, taking wickets and bowling economically.
When did he make his India A debut? Like many of India’s recent Test debutants, they’ve had to excel for India A before being on the verge of Indian selection in ODI or Test cricket. Following his outstanding 2016-17 Ranji Trophy feats, Siraj made his first-class debut for India A against South Africa A in August 2017. Despite a relatively successful debut for Siraj (4-61 and 1-42), India A were thrashed by 235 runs.
When did Siraj make a case for himself to make the Indian Test squad? Siraj made a case for himself to be a part of the Indian squad following his outstanding performances for India A in 2018. Despite Siraj taking wickets for fun, he struggled to find his way into India’s Test squad due to the star-studded pace attack in Virat Kohli’s side. But Siraj has never given up, performing consistently in first-class cricket and now forcing his way into India’s Test squad for his maiden call-up as India tour Australia for the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar trophy.
What are Siraj’s chances of playing in the Border-Gavaskar trophy? The uncertainty of Ishant Sharma’s fitness makes the third seamer spot a shootout for the series. Siraj’s first-class numbers are better than Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini, and Yadav’s numbers in Test cricket outside the subcontinent are poor. If Siraj outperforms the duo in India’s two practice games, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Siraj being handed his debut Test cap in Adelaide.
To date, Siraj has been known as a bowler who leaks runs at the death in IPL games. But his red-ball numbers have always gone under the radar. With excellent numbers for Hyderabad and India A in red-ball cricket, he is one to watch out for this series and future India Test series. India have found a gem in Siraj and he now needs to be backed by the team management and be in India’s Test squad for series to come and learn off the likes of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah.
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Siraj performances for India A (match by match) Versus South Africa A (first unofficial Test, 2017) – 4-61 (26 overs) and 1-42 (nine overs) Versus New Zealand A (first unofficial Test, 2017) – 2-30 (ten overs) and 0-3 (eight overs) Versus West Indies A (second unofficial Test, 2018) – 4-68 (22.5 overs) and 4-64 (20 overs) Versus England Lions (only unofficial Test, 2018) – 4-79 (29 overs) and 3-55 (14 overs) Versus South Africa A (first unofficial Test, 2018) – 5-56 (20.3 overs) and 5-73 (27.5 overs) Versus South Africa A (second unofficial Test, 2018) – 4-72 (21.2 overs) Versus Australia A (first unofficial Test, 2018) – 8-59 (19.3 overs) and 3-77 (18 overs) Versus New Zealand A (second unofficial Test, 2018) – 4-59 (23 overs) Versus New Zealand A (third unofficial Test, 2018) – 2-82 (27 overs) Versus West Indies A (first unofficial Test, 2019) – 2-61 (13 overs) and 3-38 (19 overs) Versus West Indies A (second unofficial Test, 2019) – 3-63 (27 overs) and 1-55 (12 overs) Versus South Africa A (first unofficial Test, 2019) – 1-20 (nine overs) and 1-36 (11 overs) Versus South Africa A (second unofficial Test, 2019) – 2-72 (18 overs) Versus New Zealand A (first unofficial Test, 2020) – 1-128 (39 overs) Versus New Zealand A (second unofficial Test, 2020) – 2-75 (20 overs)
Stats Siraj first-class stats for India A- 15 matches, 68 wickets, 21.0 average, 3.1 economy Siraj overall first-class stats – 36 matches, 147 wickets, 23.0 average, 3.11 economy