Miyamagic: Mohammed Siraj and the new hashtag in Indian fast bowling
- Whatever mood he is in, on the field, it always comes with a sprinkling of “miya-magic”. Mohammed Siraj, affectionately called “miya” by his teammates, may have gotten a late start on the big stage, but what a fiery, fierce start it has been.
Mohammed Siraj comes in many moods—there’s him shushing “haters” after yet another big wicket, or him streaming in to send yet another delivery that hits the spot, “tappe pe daalna”, as he likes to say, “intent” and intensity writ deep into his face. Or there’s the Siraj who springs up in the air in joy halfway through a run, unable to contain his delight in what his fellow batter at the other end has achieved. Recall, earlier in the year in the Chennai Test against England, Siraj had somehow managed to hold his own long enough for Ravichandran Ashwin to complete a home century and then genuinely looked more elated than the centurion himself.
Whatever mood he is in, on the field, it always comes with a sprinkling of “miya-magic”. The 27-year-old from Hyderabad, affectionately called “miya” by his teammates, may have gotten a late start on the big stage, but what a fiery, fierce start it has been. Not only has he made his way into the best fast bowling attack in the world right now, he has made that attack even better.
And now in a remarkable win at Lord’s where India’s fast bowling quartet ran through England in less than a day’s play, Siraj, the tricky troublemaker, stood out and it was not even surprising.
In his 7-Test old career, Siraj has been such a revelation that Virat Kohli now gives him more overs than he does to any of his other brilliant bowlers—34 overs on an average in a Test.
Since there is no place to hide in the hard grind of Test cricket, the only reason a bowler ends up with long spells is because he is doing the right thing. In Siraj’s case, that’s “tappe pe daalna”, or hitting the ideal line and length repeatedly. In this series so far, no one has attacked the stumps more according to stats from Cricviz—18.1% of Siraj’s deliveries were projected to hit the stumps, with Sam Curran coming in second with 16.6% and Ishant Sharma following at 13.6%.
“The wicket was slow. There wasn’t much bounce. All we were looking to do is attack the stumps because we had limited overs to play with,” Mohammed Shami told bcci.tv after the match. Siraj aced the bowling plans with flying colours.
“The first time I played in Ranji trophy, my plan was to hit the same areas. If I tried extra, it would have affected my bowling figures as well my team,” Siraj said during this Test match.
His metronymic bowling ability hides the variety Siraj has at his disposal. While the inswinger is his stock ball, he can also bounce batsmen out, the way he knocked Jonny Bairstow down with a round-the-wicket bumper using a 78-over old ball at Lords. Add the glares, stares and wild celebrations at the fall of wickets, and Siraj could be another version of his RCB and India captain, Kohli--channelizing aggression for a cause but sticking to his trusted process to get the job done.
At 27, Siraj is no young find like Ishant Sharma who, at 19, made Ricky Ponting hop.
But those years of yearning for the India cap – the domestic grind and A tours-- made him absolutely match ready when his chance came. On Test debut at Melbourne last year, Siraj showed a veteran’s ability to use the conditions to his advantage, ending up with five wickets in the match. Two Test matches later at Brisbane, he found himself the leader of India’s bowling attack after most of the first team were unavailable with injuries. What did he do? Pick up his first five-wicket haul in an innings. He harried and troubled every Australian batsman including Steve Smith, making him rush into his shot with a sharp, rising delivery. Then in the home series against England earlier in the year, where Kohli used fast bowlers sparingly, Siraj still managed to pick up three wickets in the two Tests he played, including the prized wicket of Joe Root. On his first tour of England, in conditions that suit him perfectly, it is no wonder that Siraj has 11 wickets in the two Tests played so far.
Is this the best start by an Indian pacer to his Test career? No. Six people, including Jasprit Bumrah and Shami, had more wickets in their first seven Tests than Siraj, but none of them have been involved in as many wins—India won five of the seven Tests Siraj has played.
He would like to continue that streak in England and who will bet against him?
“I used to watch as a kid and now to play here and put up a performance to win a match for the country…this is my biggest achievement. I can’t express my happiness enough,” Siraj told BCCI.tv after the Lord’s win, before tweeting: “MAGIC is believing in yourself. If you can make that happen, you can make anything happen. #miyamagic