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The unpredicted Siraj redemption that no one saw coming

Last updated on 23 Jul 2022 | 12:14 AM
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The unpredicted Siraj redemption that no one saw coming

On Friday, Siraj bowled India to victory when pretty much no one expected him to

The West Indies weren’t supposed to be competitive. Or that’s what we all believed. Because of course, they were a side that, heading into this series, had won a grand total of one ODI against teams not named Netherlands in 2022. That, too, came against an okay-ish Ireland side at home. Damn right India were fielding a supposed ‘second-string’ XI but every man, woman and child knew that the visitors still started the first game as overwhelming favorites due to a host of factors, not least their stupendous bench-strength.

Yet 95 overs into the game, here they are, with a realistic chance of pulling off a monumental win. 54 needed off 30 balls, five wickets in hand, a set Akeal Hosein batting alongside the devastating Romario Shepherd. And who is standing between them and victory? Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, with Siraj slated to bowl 3 of the remaining 5.

Siraj slated to bowl 3 of the remaining 5. 

Oh, now this, THIS is making Indian fans anxious. Not giving them hope — instead even more reasons to fear the worst, that a colossal upset is on the cards. Because they tuned into every single match of IPL 2022, in particular RCB matches, and hence they feel that they know what to expect from Siraj at the death. 

What to expect? Well, unfortunately, runs. And runs aplenty. He was, after all, the worst death bowler in the entire competition, going at an eye-watering 13.3 runs per over in the final five. Sure enough this is a different format but the fans are not fools. They know that the skill set is one and the same. And they also know that IPL 2021 — where Siraj was taming batters at the death for fun — was a long, long time ago. A lot has changed since.

So, with five overs left, the Indian fans are mentally preparing themselves for defeat. Some even have anti-Siraj, anti-Dravid (for backing Siraj) and anti-Dhawan (for trusting Siraj at the death) rants typed out and ready to be published once the supposed inevitable happens.

Here comes Siraj.

A seven-run over, with a bunch of perfectly-executed yorkers. Not bad. Excellent, actually. But what if this is the calm before the storm? I mean, we’ve seen it in the past. He anyway has 12 more balls and could easily mess it up. Let us not get over-excited. 

Fast forward six balls, here’s Siraj again. 38 off 3 is the equation now.

First ball, FOUR, ugh. Wrong line, too far down leg. Ah s***, here we go again. 

Great second ball, excellent third and fourth balls but fifth ball, FOUR. It’s not Siraj’s fault at all, for the batter gets lucky thanks to an inside-edge, but UGH, you make your own luck in sport, don’t you? The final ball is a terrible full toss that goes for a single (Siraj you lucky son of a gun) but the over has still cost 11, putting West Indies in the driver’s seat. 

As expected, Siraj is progressively getting worse (in terms of raw numbers, at least). First 7, then 11.

Which means he surely is not defending 15 off the final over. Especially now that both Hosein and Shepherd have seen enough of him. Right?

Let’s see. 

He starts with a dot and a one. Not bad. 

A four on the third ball. OH NO!

Now a pair of 2s sandwiched between an erratic leg-side wide that ALMOST goes to the boundary.

5 needed off 1.

Surely, SURELY, this is where it all ends? Where Siraj bowls one into the slot and allows Shepherd to muscle it into the mid-wicket stand? Surely, a happy ending is too good to be true?




Right, that was silly. And unnecessarily long and over-dramatic. But you get the gist of it: Siraj bowled the team to victory when pretty much no one expected him to.

The part about no one expecting him to pull it off is indeed sad, because this is a man who only 10 months ago had the world at his feet. For he could do no wrong. He’d redeemed himself, won over every single fan and had even managed to convince his detractors that he was the real deal. Late 2021, Siraj was close to being the hottest property in Indian cricket (in terms of form). Everything, it seemed, had fallen into place.

Then came the 180-degree turn in fortunes out of nowhere the moment 2022 hit. An unfortunate mid-Test injury in Johannesburg, followed by his worst ever IPL season. Then, an absolute hammering in the fourth-innings of the decisive one-off Test at Edgbaston that made many fans slowly lose faith in him again, making them wonder whether 2020/21 was an anomaly. 

Deep down, everyone knew that Siraj misfiring with the red-ball was a confidence issue, but there was hesitancy to give him the benefit of doubt when it came to white-ball cricket. Which is why his showing at the Queen's Park Oval today was a much-needed, timely reminder of the quality he possesses. 

Evident from Siraj’s showing at the death, yes, the machine that landed yorkers for fun a year ago in the IPL is very much capable of rematerializing. 

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