Mohammad Siraj sought blessings from mother Shabana Begum before taking four wickets at home

Mohammad Siraj He was at home on the day of the match. The Hyderabad pacer finished with figures of 10-2-46-4, the best by a long distance in the first ODI of the India-New Zealand series. Mohammad Siraj’s 12-run bowling took India a long way to victory.

Kiwi batsman Michael Bracewell (140 off 78 balls) threatened to run out of the match if the local boy’s performance with the ball did not go well. Along with Mitchell Santner, he launched a stunning onslaught that left India with little to answer as he was the last wicket to fall.

The left-handed batsman scored a 57-ball century and kept the Black Caps in the mix. Mitchell Santner’s dismissal turned the tide and despite Michael Bracewell’s fighting innings, New Zealand fell behind by 12 runs.

India vs New Zealand: Michael Bracewell scores joint second fastest ODI century against India.  Courtesy: AP
India vs New Zealand: Michael Bracewell scores joint second fastest ODI century against India. Courtesy: AP

Mohammad Siraj’s mother Shabana Begum was praying as her son bowled India to victory

When local boy Hyderabad’s Mohammed Siraj ran out to bowl, in his game-changing spell of 10-2-46-4, mother Shabana Begum hardly moved; He was deeply engrossed in prayer.

For Mohammad Siraj, it was a perfect outing. The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium is where Mohammad Siraj first made a name for himself. Plucked from the ‘Maidan’ of Hyderabad where he plays tennis ball cricket, Mohammad Siraj is currently one of India’s premier pacers across formats.

Shubman Gill (Credit: Twitter)
Shubman Gill (Credit: Twitter)

Although the pacer did not turn up for the optional nets session on the eve of the game, he boarded the team bus on the morning of the match, his memory may have gone back a few years. This is the same route that Mohammad Siraj used to take in his two-wheeler Bajaj Platina in his early years – filling up petrol for Rs 60 from the pocket money given to him by his father.

This time, due to security protocols, the local police cordoned off the entire road. But still, Hyderabadis – 31, 187 to be precise – flocked to see one of their own wearing an India jersey on home soil. Among them were Mohammad Siraj’s close circle of family and friends seated in a corporate box on the second floor, who have been waiting for this moment since the pacer was handed the India cap.

The capacity crowd has already been treated to fireworks Good luck Gill who scored 208 runs. As pacer Mohammed Shami completed the first over, Mohammad Siraj picked the new ball, giving the visitors another opportunity to raise the decibel level in the stadium.

As the unified roar erupted, Shabana Begum, Mohammad Siraj’s mother, could no longer sit in the front-row chair of the corporate box balcony. As the crowd chanted Mohammad Siraj’s name with his sister by his side, he gripped the railing of the grill with emotion.

Even when others were engaged in conversation, he simply stood still. He was oblivious to everything that was happening around him. It was as much Mohammad Siraj’s moment as it was his. For a brief moment, it seemed like he was in his own world, with only the son and mother around.

Through Mohammad Siraj’s first spell — he bounced Devon Conway to break New Zealand’s 350-run chase early — where he had figures of 5-2-20-1, Shabana Begum hardly moved. He would sit quietly, deeply engrossed in prayer whenever Mohammed Shami ran from the other end. And that’s exactly what Mohammad Siraj wanted from him – prayer – the day he arrived in Hyderabad.

Mohammad Siraj wanted his family to stay at the Hyderabad stadium and make all the arrangements

On Monday he had a surprise visit with his mother at home from the team hotel.

“I was praying… and when I opened my eyes, my Mia was saying Mubarak. (He told us that he would only come to see us on Tuesdays; we didn’t cook anything special. So, I scolded him first!) (Just give me your blessings, that’s enough, he said). (I quickly made her favorite khichdi),” said Shabana Begum.

Besides his mother, Sofia Sultana (Mohammed Siraj’s younger sister), grandmother, aunt and uncle were around and a dozen other friends.

“He wanted us all to be here at the stadium and made all the arrangements. If her father was around, she would have felt very proud because more than anything, as a mother I feel that despite all the fame and success, she has not changed as a person and is looking after them all,” said Shabana Begum. Sofia Sultana even showed off the new iPhone gifted to her by Mohammad Siraj.

When Mohammad Siraj made his Test debut in Australia in December 2020, picking up two wickets, his family asked his friends not to come to their house (due to his father’s death). Three months of mourning went on for Mohammad Siraj’s father. Mother and grandmother were devastated to see Mohammed Siraj standing with the Indian team during the national anthem. They were watching the game with their phones off.

Mohammad Siraj
Mohammad Siraj (Credit: Twitter)

While all his close friends, especially those who used to play cricket at the First Lancer Maidan, were sitting in the stadium’s balcony on Wednesday, Mohammad Shafi stood out from the rest as he was the one to wear the India jersey with Mohammad. Siraj’s name is written above number 73. Mohammad Shafi captained Mohammad Siraj when they played tennis ball cricket tournaments in the city.

“Siraj and Shafi used to hang out together all the time. Bachpan ka dost hai,” Ma introduced her as her own. And when Shafi’s phone rings, he proudly says: “Ye showing…. The iPhone was gifted by Siraj. And also this smartwatch. There is another G-Shock watch that he gifted me on my birthday, I keep it safe because it is expensive,” Shafi says of his “priceless friend”.

During the game, Mohammad Siraj showed how valuable he is for India as his four wickets helped India win the first ODI by 12 runs. Apart from 46 wickets in 15 Tests, Mohammad Siraj also took 37 wickets in 20 ODIs and 11 wickets in eight T20Is.

Mohammad Siraj made his ODI debut in January 2019 but played sporadically in 20 ODIs where he picked up 37 scalps at an average of 21 with figures of 4/32 in the 3rd inconsistent ODI against Sri Lanka. He had an outstanding 2022 in ODIs where he picked up 24 scalps in 15 games at an average of 23.46. In 2023, he has 13 scalps in 4 ODIs at an average of just 10.62. His economy rate in ODIs is just 4.72.

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