Hyderabad: The wait was worth it. To keep a pace bowler to twiddle his thumbs till after the luncheon interval is to test his mental fibre. But for Hyderabad’s Mohammad Siraj it was a blessing in disguise. The anticipation had only enhanced his focus and determination to perform at his best. His true character — his patience, his perseverance, his innate skills — came to the fore.
This was indeed a dream Test debut for the Hyderabadi. The 26-year-old speedster was on a roll as a bowler and then held his nerves to bring off two catches in the deep to make a memorable debut against Australia on the Boxing Day of the second Test that got underway at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. He finished with figures of 15-4-40-2.
Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane made the 26-year-old Siraj wait till 28th over, before he was given the ball. But Siraj scalped his first Test wicket with his 43rd ball in his second spell. With his third ball of his eighth over, he had the dangerous Marnus Labuschagne caught at leg slip by another Indian debutant of the match Shubman Gill. Labuschagne, who was hit on the helmet by a vicious Siraj bouncer earlier, tried to play the ball on leg side but it went to Gill, who caught it nicely.
Siraj captured his second Test wicket when he trapped the tall Cameron Green leg before to get another big breakthrough for India. This time the fiery Siraj brought the ball in sharply to catch Green on the crease to get a favourable verdict from Australian umpire Paul Reiffel. The batsman referred the decision to DRS and the ball tracker showed the ball hitting the leg stump. A happy Siraj was surrounded by his teammates
The Australian commentators were all praise for Siraj’s excellent bowling. Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath said Siraj was exceptional.
Siraj further came into action when he held his first catch at fine leg, this time left-hander Michael Starc hooked Jasprit Bumrah straight into the fielder’s hands. The Hyderabad yet again held his nerve to clasp a skier at long on to dismiss the last man Pat Cummins off left-arm spinner Ravinder Jadeja.
Surely Siraj’s father, late Mohammed Ghouse, who died last month, would be a happy man and would have blessed his son from heaven.
Earlier, it was a huge moment when seasoned off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin handed over the Indian Test cap to him. “Coming over from first class and India A grind, you have earned this Test cap. Value it,’’ said Ashwin to Siraj in the morning’s ceremony.
Siraj, a son of an autorickshaw driver, is the second Hyderabad fast bowler after Syed Abid Ali to play in Test cricket. Abid Ali claimed 6 for 55 in his debut Test in Adelaide in 1966.
Former Test left-arm spinner SL Venkatapathy Raju said it is always a great feeling when a player gets a Test cap and a great relief and joy when a player takes his first Test wicket. “I made my debut in New Zealand in Christchurch in 1990 and as a spinner I had to wait to get my first over. You feel butterflies in your stomach anxious to get the first over. It was strange that skipper Ajinkya Rahane made Siraj, that too a fast bowler in Australia, to bowl his first over after lunch only.
“But nevertheless Siraj bowled with a lot of fire. He has come through the first class and India A tour grinds. He looks like a solid prospect, said Raju.
The 26-year-old fast bowler thus became the 297th player to get the Indian cap. There were two debutants in this match with opener Shubnam Gill becoming the 298th player.