Indian pacemaker Mohammed Siraj says he was asked to ‘quit cricket and drive a car’ with his father after a poor 2019 IPL season, making him think his league career was over before MS advice Dhoni does come to her rescue.
Siraj’s seven wickets in nine games with a save rate of nearly 10 reflected the disastrous exit of his Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise that season as they lost six consecutive games early and finished bottom.
His worst performance came against Kolkata Knight Riders when he was hit for five sixes and 36 runs in 2.2 overs, including two beamers, forcing captain Virat Kohli to pull him out of the bowling alley.
“When I threw those two spotlights against KKR, people said ‘stop cricket and go back driving cars with your dad,'” Siraj told the RCB Podcast.
“There were so many comments like that. And people don’t see the struggle behind it all. But I remember when I was first selected, Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) told me not to listen to everything people had to say about me.
“’You’re doing well today and they’ll praise you and when you don’t, the same people will abuse you. So never take it seriously. And yes, the same people who constantly trolled me back then were saying “you are the best bhai bowler”. So I know. I don’t want anyone’s opinion. I’m the same Siraj I was back then. The 27-year-old has since come a long way and is one of three players retained by the franchise who are still chasing their first-ever title in the lucrative league.
Riding on his impressive showing in the 2020 IPL season, Siraj made his India debut on the team’s Australian tour, where he cemented his place with a magnificent five-wicket run in the triumphant Gabba Test.
However, he had faced personal tragedy during the same tour when Siraj lost his father. With travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Siraj was unable to see his father before taking off for the Down Under tour as he flew with the team directly to Australia after the conclusion of the IPL in the United Arab Emirates.
“Dad wasn’t doing well in 2020. So every time I talked to him we were always crying on call. So I didn’t talk to him much because he kept crying and I felt very helpless,” Siraj revealed.
“When the IPL was over, no one told me that dad was so seriously ill. Every time I called or asked, they said he was sleeping or resting, so I told them d OK, don’t disturb him. It wasn’t until I got to Australia that I found out Dad was in such critical condition.
“I fought with my whole family… ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner.’ They were saying we didn’t want it to affect your career or your focus and that made me angry. I told them that if you had told me sooner, I would have at least met him before leaving for Australia.
“When he finally spoke to me, all he asked of me was to focus on playing for the country, achieving my dream and making the country proud. That’s all I care about. remembered and that’s the only reason I stayed…
“I thought about leaving the day he died, but his words were the only thing that kept me in Australia.” His father struggled a lot so that Siraj could play cricket and pursue his dream of playing for India.
“My dad used to save the newspaper cutouts if my picture was published after a good performance and standing there (on the Test debut) singing the national anthem, I couldn’t help but think what how proud he would have been and how proud he would be I saw him in an Indian shirt, playing for the country.
“His words rang in my ears even as I sang the national anthem.”