While Mohammed Siraj is one of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s three retained players for IPL 2022, it was not long ago that he thought he would lose his career in IPL. Siraj said that the 2019 season was a disaster for them as they had lost six games on a trot. In the nine games that he played, he conceded runs at an economy of 9.55 and picked up a mere seven wickets as well.
Siraj faced criticism while playing against the Kolkata Knight Riders as he gave away five sixes and 36 runs in 2.2 overs of bowling before he was forced out of the attack after bowling two beamers as well. He had also dropped Chris Lynn early in the chase and RCB lost the game despite having scored a huge 205 runs while batting first. Siraj had to bear the burnt for the defeat too.
“When I bowled those two beamers against KKR, people said ‘quit cricket and go back and drive autos with your father’,” Mohammed Siraj told The RCB Podcast. “There were so many such comments. And people don’t see the struggle behind all this. But I remember when I first got selected how Mahi bhai [MS Dhoni] told me to not listen to everything the people have to say about me. ‘You do well today and they’ll praise you and when you don’t the same people will abuse you. So don’t ever take it seriously.’ And yes, the same people who trolled me incessantly back then say ‘you’re the best bowler bhai’. So, I know. I don’t want anybody’s opinion. I’m the same Siraj I was back then.”
Surprisingly, his IPL fortunes turned in another game against KKR in the following season, in Abu Dhabi, when he registered the figures of 3 for 8, also becoming the first bowler to bowl two maiden overs in the history of the league as well.
“2019 the performance with RCB was so bad that I thought that’s the end of my IPL career. But then I realised that I still have age on my side. So I decided to trust myself a bit and thankfully the RCB management also backed me a lot at that time. I almost thought any franchise in their position would have let go of a bowler after that kind of performance, but they backed me and then 2020 the game against KKR was a life-changing game for me,” Mohammed Siraj said.
However, he earned his Test call-up on the back of his stunning IPL 2020 and he made his Test debut in the historic series win in Australia. He claimed a five-fer in the famous Gabba win and became a regular face in the Test squad too. However, he was going through a tough time at that time.
“Dad wasn’t keeping well in 2020. So whenever I used to speak to him, we were always crying on the cal. So I didn’t talk a lot with him because he’d keep crying and it made me feel very helpless. When the IPL got over, nonbody told me dad was so seriously ill. Whenever I called or asked, they’d say he’s sleeping or he’s resting, so I’d tell them okay don’t disturb him. It was only when I reached Australia that I got to know that dad was in such a critical condition. I fought with my entire family … ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner’. They’d say we didn’t want it to affect your career or your concentration and it made me angry,” he expressed.
Siraj stated: “I told them if you would’ve told me earlier I would have at least met him before leaving for Australia. When he finally spoke to me, all he asked of me was to focus on playing for the country, fulfilling my dream and making the country proud. That’s all I remembered and that’s the only reason I stayed back, because my dad wanted me to play for my country and make my country proud. I thought of leaving the day he passed, but his words were the only thing that kept me back in Australia.”
“My dad used to save the cut-outs from newspapers if my photo got published after a good performance and standing there [on Test debut] singing the national anthem I couldn’t stop thinking how proud he would have been and how proud he would have been of me seeing him in India jersey, playing for the country. His words kept ringing in my ears even as I sang the national anthem. Virat Kohli told me something I’d never be able to forget. After returning from Australia, he said ‘Miyan, well bowled, what you’ve done in Australia is unbelievable. Nobody will be able to forget what you’ve done there. Keep at it and keep your focus on fitness and keep putting in the hard work,'” Mohammed Siraj signed off.