pacemaker india Mohamed Siraj says he was asked to “quit cricket and drive cars” with his father after a poor IPL season in 2019, which made him think his league career was over before he was bailed out by MS Dhoni’s lawyer.
Siraj’s seven wickets in nine matches with an economy rate of almost 10 mirrored the disastrous exit of his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore that season as they lost six straight games at the start and finished bottom.
His worst performance came against Kolkata Knight Riders when he was beaten for five sixes and 36 runs in 2.2 overs, which included two beams, forcing the captain Virat Kohli to get him out of bowling.
“When I pitched those two Beamers against KKR, people said ‘quit cricket and go back and drive cars with your father,’” Siraj told The RCB Podcast.
“There were so many comments like this. And people don’t see the struggle behind all this. But I remember when I was first cast how Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) told me not to listen to everything people had to say about me.
“’You do well today and you will be praised and when you don’t, the same people will abuse you. So never take it seriously. And yes, the same people who trolled me incessantly back then say ‘you are the best bowler bhai’. So I know. I don’t want anyone’s opinion. I am the same Siraj I was back then.” Since then, the 27-year-old has come a long way and is one of three players retained by the franchise still seeking his first title in the lucrative league.
Building on his impressive performance in the 2020 IPL season, Siraj made his India debut during the team’s tour of Australia, where he cemented his place with a magnificent five-wicket haul in the triumphant Gabba test.
However, he had faced a 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 holding up well in 2020. So every time I talked to him, we were always crying on the call. So I didn’t talk to him much because he kept crying and it made me feel so helpless,” Siraj revealed.
“When the IPL ended, no one told me that Dad was so seriously ill. Every time he called or asked, they said he was sleeping or resting, so he told them not to disturb him. It was only when I got to Australia that I learned that Dad was in such critical condition.
“I had a fight with my whole family… ‘why didn’t you tell me before?’ They said we didn’t want it to affect your career or your concentration and that made me angry. I told them that if they had told me earlier, at least I would have met him before I left for Australia.
“When he finally spoke to me, all he asked was for me to focus on playing for the country, fulfilling my dream and making the country proud. That’s all she remembered and that’s the only reason I stayed behind…
“I thought about leaving the day he passed away, but his words were the only thing that kept me in Australia.” His father fought hard to make sure Siraj played cricket and pursued his dream of playing for India.
“My dad used to save the newspaper clippings, if my photo was published after a good performance and standing there (at Test’s debut) singing the national anthem, I couldn’t stop thinking how proud I would have been and how proud what would be they have been from me seeing him in the India jersey, playing for the country.
“His words kept ringing in my ears even as he sang the national anthem.”