India pacer Mohammed Siraj, who on Monday picked up five wickets to become only the fifth Indian bowler to pick a fifer n a Test at iconic Gabba, has shown remarkable level of fitness throughout the four-match rubber against Australia. Playing only his third Test, Siraj claimed his maiden five-wicket-haul – 5/73 – and along with Thakur, who contributed with 4/61, helped India bowl Australia out for 294 in the second innings on Monday. In the absence of senior pros like Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and more recently Jasprit Bumrah – Siraj showed admirable guts and gumption to lead a bowling unit that had a combined experience of two Tests before the Brisbane Test. Also Read - PSL 2021: Fawad Ahmed of Islamabad United Tests Positive For COVID-19, PSL Match Delayed For Two Hours
Speaking after the end of day 4 play of the fourth Test, Siraj remembered his late father and credited the five-wicket haul to his blessings. The 26-year-old added that it was his father’s dream to see him play in front of the world. He also wished his father could live to see this day. “My dad had wished that his son would play and the entire world would watch him. I hope he could have been there to watch this day. This is because of his blessings that I have got a five-wicket haul in Tests. I am speechless and can’t express my feelings in words. Also Read - Virat Kohli is Like Modern Day Hero, Represents New Attitude of India: Steve Waugh
“It was a tough situation, dad’s demise. I got strength after talking to mom and my focus was to realise dad’s dream. I got mentally strong with their support. I felt that whatever was dad’s desire, I have to fulfill that. It got fulfilled,” he added. Also Read - ICC World Test Championship 2021: Here's What Virat Kohli-Led Team India Needs to do Qualify For Final
Siraj has bowled 134.1 overs, the most by an Indian bowler in the current series which saw the entire frontline attack get benched due to injuries before the fourth and final Test. The 26-year-old ended up being India’s highest wicket-taker in the series with 13 scalps. Add to that, he has manned the outfield energetically.
He attributed this fitness level to regular work at home during lockdown.
“I need to thank Soham bhai – Soham Desai, the strength and conditioning coach at the National Cricket Academy) who designed a program for me and backed my training. Fitness is very important. I have been working on it since lockdown. I used to get regular programs from him, which I used to follow during the lockdown as well. I realise now how important fitness is, especially in Test cricket,” said Siraj.
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The right-arm pacer, who made his Test debut at the MCG during the Boxing Day Test, has had a very emotional tour. He lost his father a few days after he arrived in Australia but couldn’t return home to attend his burial due to strict quarantine rules that would have taken a lot of time.
He was then subjected to alleged racial taunts by a section of the crowd in Sydney — a matter that forced Cricket Australia to launch an investigation and issue an apology.
Despite just two Tests under his belt prior to the Brisbane Test, Siraj was the senior-most of the India bowling attack to take field at The Gabba. India fielded two debutants, Washington Sundar and T Natarajan, while Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini had played just one Test each before.
“It is not about seniority. Whatever cricket I played for India A or at domestic level, it helped me gain a lot of confidence. I missed Jassi bhai (Jasprit Bumrah) in this game. He wasn’t there. I was being called the senior bowler. So I tried to shoulder responsibility,” he said.
Siraj got the wickets of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith through beautiful deliveries, the one to Smith being almost unplayable. Both the deliveries got big on the batsmen as they were caught behind the wicket. Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were his other three scalps.
Siraj said that he wanted to keep it tight during Australia’s second innings.
“My job was to build pressure, not try much and put the ball in one spot. I thought that will be good for the team and me. We have to bowl in one area and the same channel for a while before surprising the batsman,” he said.