IPL 2020: How three wickets in a trial match changed Siraj’s life Filed on October 22, 2020
Mohammed Siraj of the Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrates the wicket of Nitish Rana of Kolkata Knight Riders. (IPL)

(Pankaj Nangia)

Abdul Azeem, the former Hyderabad Ranji Trophy batsman, believes it was the three wickets Siraj took in a trial match at the under 23 level in Hyderabad that changed his life

The magical three-wicket spell (4-2-8-3) that Mohammed Siraj bowled against the Kolkata Knight Riders was not the life-changing moment for the Royal Challengers Bangalore player.

Of course, that match-winning display has now earned the 26-year-old pace bowler national fame at a time when he is hoping to force his way back into the Indian team after an inauspicious start to his international career.

But Abdul Azeem, the former Hyderabad Ranji Trophy batsman, believes it was the three wickets Siraj took in a trial match at the under 23 level in Hyderabad that changed his life.

It was Azeem that first gave Siraj the chance to play proper cricket.

"He (Siraj) didn’t even have shoes to play proper cricket until he was 20," Azeem told Khaleej Times over phone from Hyderabad.

Siraj’s meteoric rise from a small two-room house in Hyderabad to the upper echelons of cricket in a span of five and a half years has bewildered many an expert.

"For me, it’s a miracle. In my career, I have never seen anything like this. Only Allah can do these things," Azeem said.

Siraj’s mother used to work in Azeem’s sister’s house to make ends meet.

"His mother would almost everyday ask me to help her son. She used to tell me, ‘please help my son, he is not interested in studies, he only plays cricket all the time’," Azeem recalled.

The seventh cricketer in India to score a triple century in Ranji Trophy, Azeem didn’t see anything special in Siraj when he first watched him bowl.

"I found him very ordinary to be honest when I first saw him bowl. But because he was from a very poor family, his father was an autorickshaw driver, I decided to help him. But, you know, he was playing for corporate teams back then where they used to pay him some 200 rupees a match. So I told his mother that unless he plays league cricket and performs, he cannot be considered for selection in Hyderabad state team," Azeem said.

So Siraj joined a team named Charminar that plays league cricket in Hyderabad.

"He performed well for them. I asked my friends, who were all selectors, to take a look at the boy and help him if he performed. And he ended up taking three top-order wickets in the trial match, which earned him a place in the state under-23 team. So that trial match put him on the right track," said Azam. But if it wasn’t for the influence of Bharat Arun, the Indian bowling coach who had a stint with the Hyderabad Ranji team in 2015-2016, Siraj would not have become the bowler that Virat Kohli could throw the new ball to.

"He (Arun) played a significant role in my career. He knew that I had the potential to play for India. I benefited a lot when he was coach of the Hyderabad team," Siraj had told N Jagannath Das of Telangana Today.

Now Azeem, the former Hyderabad Ranji coach, is naturally a happy man seeing Siraj produce a devastating spell for Kohli’s RCB in the Indian Premier League on Wednesday.

"With his hard-work and dedication, he has come to this position and I am really happy that he has made his family and everybody proud," Azeem said.

"You know, he was an ordinary gully boy who used to play cricket with his friends for fun. When I first saw him, I never thought he would play for India.

"But he comes from a tribe that used to be Nizam’s security. They are tough people. Look, he has climbed up the ladder in a very short span of time. As I said, his is a miraculous tale!"


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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