Cricketer Siraj turns into a dangerous strike bowler

Hyderabad pacer Mohammed Siraj has scaled a new peak by becoming the third ranked seam bowler in the world in ODI cricket at the present. Hyderabad is famous for producing talented spinners. Beginning with Ghulam Ahmed, there have been tweakers such as Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub in the off spin department, Venkatapathi Raju and Pagyan Ojha in left arm spin and M.V. Narasimha Rao in leg spin. M.L. Jaisimha also used to bowl off breaks. There are a host of other gifted spinners who could not make it into the Indian team but were good enough to do so.

But in the use of seam and pace, the number of bowlers from Hyderabad are not so many. Siraj is among the best. No other pace bowler has reached this level or rank in ODI cricket. Clearly Siraj has matured and grown with the passing of the years. He has learnt from experience and added a few more weapons to his armoury.

While discussing the merits of Siraj several months ago, V.V.S. Laxman had told this correspondent that the lethal fast bowler has all the required skills. “For one thing, Siraj is a very artful bowler. He can use the seam in the right manner on different pitches. Secondly, for any fast bowler, there are two very important requirements. He must have the ability to swing the ball deceptively. Siraj has this ability in abundance. Then a fast bowler has to be able to bowl long spells. This ability too, Siraj has in him. He has tremendous stamina. He can come back for his next spell and bowl with just as much venom as he did in his first spell,” said Laxman.

“This ability to maintain his speed, bounce and movement throughout the innings is what makes Siraj such a dangerous bowler. He just keeps coming back again and again and he keeps hammering away at the opposing batters. That is why he picks up wickets even in the powerplay or in the slog overs. It is an important quality for any fast bowler to possess,” explained Laxman.

Siraj is now 28. He is just the right age when his strength and stamina are still at their peak and at the same time he has learnt a lot of variations and control, through experience. One may recall the example of the great Dennis Lillee who was a tearway fast bowler in his early 20s. But after he suffered an injury, Lillee learnt to introduce variations and skills that he lacked earlier. This only made him a more dangerous bowler and he picked up a rich haul of wickets.

The question that arises is: How long will Siraj be at his best? That depends entirely upon his own ability to maintain his physical and mental fitness. One can see that the 40 year old James Anderson of England is still going strong and he is still a nightmare for the world’s best batters. Siraj can be like that too. Provided he continues to use his brains to think up new strategies, learn to outwit rival batsmen and is always willing to learn from others. He has all these traits and if all goes well, his career should see him reach even greater heights.