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Fire, Ecstasy - Miyan Magic sweeps Colombo off its feet

Last updated on 17 Sep 2023 | 02:26 PM
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Fire, Ecstasy - Miyan Magic sweeps Colombo off its feet

Such was his natural chutzpah that despite the presence of Bumrah in the bowling line-up, you couldn’t keep your eye off him

The jam-packed R Premadasa Stadium, filled with partisan Lankan fans, bore witness to one of the most lethal acts of pace bowling ever witnessed in ODI cricket. And not just in some normal fashion - it was a symposium at its best, with no inches given.

To define Mohammed Siraj’s bowling against Sri Lanka on Sunday (September 17) in physical terms was to play with fire. Because you’re only going to hurt yourself while never being able to achieve what you’re trying to search for. Such was his natural chutzpah that despite the presence of Jasprit Bumrah in the bowling line-up, you couldn’t keep your eye off him.

Not that he allowed you to. Precision in swing, devilish seam movement, and raw pace combined with a regimental focus on length - there was nothing more you’d have wanted to see, and it was not there. The Entire Colombo crowd were on the edge of their seats as Miya choked the opposition's batters into breathless submission: W 0 W W 4 W in one over. Sri Lanka plummeted to a precarious 12-6.

Was it an outlier? In the context of the game and the speed at which everything panned out, it was easy to believe so. However, pause for a moment and reflect. This was precisely what Siraj had been consistently delivering for some time now. On Sunday, with the stakes soaring to an all-time high with the ICC World Cup just around the corner, Siraj chose to unveil his theatrics.

Ahead of India’s encounter against Bangladesh on Friday, India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey was asked how difficult was it to keep a bowler of Mohammed Shami’s pedigree on the bench. “It's not easy to drop someone like Shami,” Mhambrey replied. 

“The experience that he has and the performance that he has done for the country is phenomenal. It's never easy to have that kind of a conversation.”

Mhambrey couldn’t have been more correct, for Shami has been at the epicenter of many an Indian win in the last decade or so, and the genuine upfront swing & seam that he brings to the table makes him such an invaluable commodity to the set-up. Siraj is no Shami, at least not yet, but he brings a gaiety to the side that was otherwise on a slippery slope for the lack of role definition in the white-ball formats.

Since returning to the Indian ODI side in February 2022, Siraj has an average of 17.7 and an economy rate of 4.6, with as many as 53 wickets to his name. He has gone wicketless just four times in 27 innings in ODIs and has taken two or more wickets on 16 occasions in this format. Looking at those numbers, it’s impossible to believe that Siraj’s primal instincts to become the lead threadbare in the side weren't accepted widely till recently.

It is sometimes unnatural to believe that, but Siraj is one of India's hardest-working cricketers. With the regimental work ethic he has adhered to with an insane focus on fitness, Siraj has made sure he wouldn’t leave anything for chance. Give your 100% first and then snatch what is rightfully yours has been Siraj's mantra to success in the last three years.

From pushing Bharat Arun to the brink with the constant “when are you picking me in the Indian team?” question to being the fierce presence in the side three years later, Siraj has come a long way in his cricketing career. He has grown as a bowler and, at the same time, as a person too, like donating the 3,000 USD player of the match award to the Sri Lankan groundsmen. 

This evolution of persona has only helped him come this far, and if the evidence of Sunday is anything to go by, we’re witnessing perhaps one of the greatest stories emerging right in front of our eyes. Tighten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

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