CHENNAI: Being in hard quarantine in a foreign land while grieving the loss of a family member can be soul-crushing. The easier option is to go back, to comfort as well as be comforted. Being racially abused is dispiriting. It can leave one feeling worthless. Leading the bowling attack in just the third Test can be equally daunting, in a different way. It’s fair to say Mohammed Siraj aced that latest challenge, becoming just the fifth Indian bowler to grab a five-for at The Gabba.
Even though India may not chase down 328 (if weather relents) on the final day to win the series, Siraj held his end of the bargain on the fourth day of the final Test against Australia. And how. His latest act in what has been an emotional series left the Hyderabadi speechless. He visibly struggled to hold back the
tears while returning with the match ball.
The tears, though, also told a wider story of his struggles. His father died days after India landed in Sydney in November. The son of an autorickshaw driver, the 26-year-old driver hadn’t even bowled with a proper cricket ball till seven-eight years. He spent his time playing tennis ball cricket, admitting that concepts like seam and swing were alien to him. But, thanks to a common trait running through this Indian team — ability to fight and create your own destiny — he has fought his way through the system. Through tennis ball tournaments. Through Ranji Trophy. Through India A tours. Through the IPL. Through a tragedy. Through racial abuse.
At the Gabba, he went to fight for his father’s dreams and his dreams. He emerged with a smile on his face and happy tears down his eyes. “My dad had wished that his son would play and the entire world would watch him,” he said after the day’s play. “I hope he could have been there to watch this day. Because of his blessings I have got a five-wicket haul. I am speechless. I got strength after talking to mom and my focus was on realising my dad’s dreams.”