Mohammed Siraj
Siraj has proved a number of times that he can be Team India’s potential X factor at the World Cup.

Team India pacer Mohammed Siraj has been around the international scene for a few years now. He made his T20I debut in November 2017 against New Zealand in Rajkot. Although he picked up the wicket of Kane Williamson, it was a rather forgettable debut as the bowler was smashed for 53 runs in four overs. Siraj then made his ODI debut in January 2019 in a match against Australia in Adelaide, a game in which he was again hammered for 76 runs in 10 overs and failed to claim a wicket. 

By the time he played his first Test against Australia in Melbourne during the famous 2020-21 series, the right-arm pacer was a much-improved bowler. However, for the subsequent period, he was being considered more of a red-ball bowler as question marks over his white ball ability persisted. Over the course of the last year, though, he has been absolutely brilliant across all formats of the game. His sensational performance in the Asia Cup 2023 final was like a “dream come true”, in his own words, but was also the result of a lot of hard yards that the bowler had put in behind the scenes to become the potent force that he is today.

Siraj’s international record since October 2022

If we look at Siraj’s performance in international cricket over the last year, starting October 2022, he has played 19 ODI matches in which he has claimed a rich bag of 40 wickets at an excellent average of 15.22, with a best of 6/21 in the Asia Cup 2023 final in Colombo. Siraj has been almost equally good home and away, averaging 14.79 and 13.07, respectively, although it must be noted that all these games have been played in Asia. Other than his six-for against Sri Lanka, Siraj’s other notable performances over the last year include 3/38 against South Africa in Ranchi (October 2022), 3/32 against Bangladesh in Mirpur (December 2022), 3/30 vs Sri Lanka in Kolkata (January 2023), 4/32 vs Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram (January 2023), 4/46 vs New Zealand in Hyderabad (January 2023) and 3/29 against Australia in Mumbai (March 2023). The numbers explain why Siraj rose to the No. 1 ranking in the format. 

In T20Is as well, he was excellent during the tour of New Zealand late last year, registering figures of 2/24 in Mount Maunganui and 4/17 in Napier. As for Tests, he has picked up 19 scalps in eight matches, with an impressive five-for against West Indies at Port of Spain on a surface where there wasn’t much for bowlers. In Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, he commendably took charge and lifted his game, displaying good leadership qualities.

What has made Siraj so dangerous?

As mentioned earlier, Siraj is a completely different bowler from what he was in the past. Earlier, there were times when he was erratic and unpredictable as well – someone who could bowl some brilliant deliveries and then spray it all around. However, Siraj 2.0 is a much more refined version of the earlier self. While aggression remains a big part of his game, just like Virat Kohli, he has definitely worked a lot on his bowling skills.

Unlike earlier, Siraj now has the ability to move the ball both and has great control as well over his deliveries. Rarely do you see him bowling loose balls. The batters have a tough task on hand because they are often unsure of whether the ball is coming in or going out. The wobble seam delivery that he has developed has also turned into a highly potent weapon for him, making him a lot more versatile.

After picking up a four-wicket haul against Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram at the start of this year, Siraj admitted that having the wobble seam delivery in his armory has been one of the big reasons behind his success in recent times. He revealed, “It is always difficult for batters in all formats if you bowl the right line. I started bowling with wobble seam in the nets to develop the in-swinger. The wobble seam keeps the batters guessing where the ball will go.”

While there has never been any doubt over Siraj’s ability, there have been concerns with regard to his over-aggression over the years. However, success seems to have brought in a lot of maturity in the 29-year-old. And while he still doesn’t back down from staring the batter down in the eye or chirping away at them for missing and playing, what stands out now in his bowling is the fact that there is a method to Miyan’s Magic.

Siraj, Bumrah – A deadly opening combo for the World Cup

One of the key reasons why the Men in Blue are being considered favourites for the ICC World Cup 2023 at home is because of their extremely dangerous bowling attack. As a pair, Siraj and Bumrah are right up there among the best. In recent years, Bumrah has had to carry the burden alone since Mohammed Shami has been somewhat inconsistent in the format, while the others have also not been up to the mark.

Over the last year, though, Siraj has proved a number of times that he can be Team India’s potential X factor at the World Cup. He can make the ball talk in conditions where most other pace bowlers are rendered ineffective. It’s a skill set that only a few gifted bowlers possess. As a bowling pair, Siraj and Bumrah complement each other brilliantly and, if they get it right, can make life extremely difficult for opposition batters at the ODI World Cup in India.

Bumrah will, of course, go into the World Cup as Team India’s lead pacer. But Siraj has given enough proof that he can be equally destructive with the ball, both at the start and at the death. And so, apart from Boom Boom Bumrah, all teams taking part in the ODI World Cup in India will be equally wary of not succumbing to Miyan Magic!