From the most expensive on debut to the No. 1 ODI bowler, Mohammed Siraj has come a long way
He has come a long way, hasn’t he? From the Hyderabad streets to the No. 1 ODI bowler, Mohammed Siraj’s journey has been nothing but an inspiration. Even Siraj wouldn’t have thought of climbing the ladders as quickly. But here we are.
Coming from a humble background, when Siraj started his bowling career, he had only one thing - passion - the passion to improve his game, the passion to play for India, and the passion to be the No. 1 bowler in the world. That zeal is still visible every time he runs from his mark to deliver for his team. That’s his biggest strength as well.
While Mohammed Siraj will now be remembered for dismantling Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final, his journey started a long way back. The international road at the start was as arduous as it could get, but he was ready to overcome any obstacle, just like in his life.
Siraj has had the worst possible international debut in white-ball cricket. On his T20I debut in 2017, he leaked 53 runs and was the worst bowler from both sides. In his next game, Siraj was again the most expensive bowler of the match, conceding at an economy rate of 11.25.
To worsen his case, Siraj also had an ODI debut to forget. He was again the worst-performing player of the rubber, giving away 76 at 7.60 per over in Adelaide. Siraj didn’t play in this format for the next three years.
He probably came to this level a bit early, but there was talent and, of course, passion. During this hiatus, Siraj did everything to get back into the Indian setup. He dismissed a plethora of batters in the domestic circuit and broke down the selection doors.
Siraj got his second chance a year and a half before the World Cup and this time he was what India wanted precisely. India had a new-ball problem, with Jasprit Bumrah struggling from the persistent back injury. Mind you, Mohammed Shami wasn’t a new-ball beast either then.
Siraj's comeback was impressive as he immediately made an impact in his first ODI series after a three-year absence, delivering a strong performance against the West Indies. His supreme skills with the new ball made him difficult to tackle, and more importantly, Siraj was among the wickets in the powerplay. Last year, he snared 24 wickets at 23.50 runs apiece.
66.66% of those wickets came during the field restrictions at a marvellous average of 16.62. Among all the bowlers to have bowled a minimum of 30 powerplay overs, Siraj’s average was the best, and his economy rate (3.91) was the fifth-best and best among the Indian bowlers.
These numbers were world-class; bowlers crave to have such statistics. But Siraj wasn’t going to stop; that’s not his trait. He honed his skills further and added more to his armour by sheer hard work.
His toil was bound to be fruitful, and then came Siraj’s best phase in his career. By reaching 2023, he was in his best possible rhythm, and his confidence was higher than the sky. Siraj understood his game more than ever, and his skill sets were also at their peak.
When Siraj made his comeback in 2022, he could easily take the ball away from the right-handers. But he still lacked the expertise to bring them into the batters, which could have hindered his progress. Siraj learnt to seam the ball in, and while the work is still in progress, the early signs are more than threatening for the batters. Ask Sri Lanka, and they will agree.
Mohammed Siraj has 29 scalps at a sumptuous average of 12.86 and a strike rate of 16.68 in the ODIs this year. 16 of those have been in the powerplay at 15.12 runs apiece. He has taken a wicket every 20.25 balls and conceded only 4.48 runs per over.
In the middle overs, Siraj has 8 wickets at an average of 10.75 and an economy rate of 4.69. He has also dismissed 5 batters in slog overs while conceding only 5.40 runs an over. These figures show Siraj is not only a powerplay specialist anymore; he can do anything anytime.
Taking the best batters of the opposition down has been Siraj’s go-to task since last year. If Siraj is in the pack, the top order is always in trouble in the ODIs. 54.71% of his wickets have been of the top-three batters, and 60.37% of his dismissals have been of the batters playing at a score of under 10. Siraj doesn’t let the batters settle at all, and in the powerplay, the batters would need a stroke of significant luck to survive.
Among all the pacers with a minimum of 25 wickets, Mohammed Siraj has the second-best strike rate (16.68) and the third-best average (12.86) in a calendar year in the ODIs. And, mind you, plenty of 50-over cricket is still left this year. The kind of form he’s in, the surge in already brilliant figures won’t be surprising. He is competing with the best in the history now.
The carnage against Sri Lanka wasn’t a one-off or surprising for those who tracked his career since last year. While the wickets might not have come as many, Siraj bowled equally well in every innings before that final. It’s just that everything went his way in this game.
In a team with Jasprit Bumrah, it’s easy to go unnoticed. However, Siraj has carved out a niche for himself, which speaks a lot for itself. Mohammed Siraj might still not be a leader, but he has done everything for the Men in Blue in different circumstances.
In fact, it was Siraj who didn’t let the team feel the absence of Bumrah as much as they anticipated. In a way, Bumrah’s injury enabled Siraj to express himself freely and highlight his skills. As Bumrah returns to the fold, Siraj has grown enough not to be a weaker link and instead formed one of the best pairs.
No one should only remember Siraj for his heroics in the Asia Cup 2023 final; he has done plenty more than that with the ball. All of that was possible due to his passion in his initial days. He has become the ICC No. 1 bowler in the ODIs, but we all know he won’t stop even now. Expect more spells like the Asia Cup final as Mohammed Siraj enters the best playing days of his career.