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On such a flat wicket, taking a five-fer is difficult: Siraj

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A little more than two years have passed since Mohammed Siraj first played in a Test match. But his talent betrays his inexperience or lack of experience. It is a credit to his development that India’s team management chose him to captain an extremely inexperienced fast bowling unit on their first international assignment of the current World Test Championship cycle, while Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah rested and recovered at home.

After India bowled 67 overs for just four wickets on the third day of the Trinidad Test, bowling coach Paras Mhambrey predicted collecting 20 wickets on that pitch would be very challenging. The following morning, Siraj bowled 3.4 overs of excellent swing bowling and took four wickets by himself. Siraj’s career-best stats of 5 for 60 have given India the opportunity to pursue a victory on the final day, which seemed improbable two nights prior.

What came next is the greatest summary of Siraj’s efforts on the fourth morning. The top order for India scored 181 runs in the second innings to set up a declaration at more than 7.5 runs per over, demonstrating that the wicket had remained as batting-friendly as it has been throughout this Test.

Siraj observed at the conclusion of the fourth day’s play, “First of all, this performance was incredibly good since it’s not easy to take a five-fer on such a flat wicket. “The pitch was not very effective. I wished to keep it from beginning to end. If it seems to be from there, it’s pretty good. That was my strategy: to keep carrying out this easy plan. We also had a new ball today, so it was swinging. We’ll start with an older ball tomorrow, so we’ll need to stick to straightforward strategies, avoid throwing away too many runs, and keep applying pressure.

Although the deconstruction may have been rather straightforward, the abilities on display were astounding. Siraj has always been a deadly bowler against left-handers, but his improved performance against right-handers is proof of his rising stardom. The right-handed batter’s bat now has both edges in play, and the symmetry of his wicket distribution—two to balls that hitters hit out and two to balls that batters hit back in—showed how challenging he was to beat.

However, Siraj’s development has involved a lot of conditioning work in addition to his ball abilities. “This place is hot and muggy. And it’s pouring intermittently. As a fast bowler, it can be difficult to get warmed up because the body quickly cools down after relaxing and leaving the pitch. Fast bowlers find it challenging to bowl extended stretches in high humidity. I make an effort to keep my body warm and keep my plans simple.

“I owe Soham bhai (the S&C coach) a great debt of gratitude for improving my physical condition. He is working extremely hard with me while I play nonstop. He places my orders for everything, including proteins and omegas. Take a look at this crazy band, a fitness tracker that he just ordered.

Since you have been given the additional duty of leading the attack, I must admit that I feel extremely pleased about it. It’s both a wonderful feeling and a problem. I have to get down on the ground and act responsibly if no one else is around. I enjoy taking on challenges like these, Siraj continued.

Siraj has started acting as a mentor as part of his responsibilities as the leader of the fast-bowling team. Making Mukesh Kumar feel welcomed and a part of the group has included hosting dinners and holding off-field get-togethers. Siraj had kind comments for the rookie who had two wickets in the first innings and had done a commendable hold-up job.

“Mukesh has been with us on occasion. He is experienced in this. He has played well in the Ranji Trophy on some pretty challenging pitches. Ranji has several wickets that are even flatter than this, making it difficult to take wickets. Being able to perform there is impressive. It is not simple for him to come here, maintain his composure, and carry out his plan. He is playing in his debut game for India, a Test match. These lengthy spells are difficult to bowl, and he bowls quite hard. It’s not simple.

“Every time we go out, we just keep teasing him, asking him, ‘What’s going on at home?’ etc. We always get along as fast bowlers. We cooperate and support one another.

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