Siraj unlocks the best version of himself

Siraj seems to have found his rhythm. PC – BCCI

Mohammed Siraj seems to offer two unique versions of himself, especially in the T20 format.  We witnessed the first one during the initial part of the IPL 2024 season, where Siraj was struggling for rhythm and going for plenty of runs. In his previous two outings, Siraj, however, has not just bowled with better control but also found movement in the air and off the deck.

In the just-concluded game between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Gujarat Titans on Saturday, Siraj put on a virtuoso exhibition of pace bowling in the PowerPlay overs. On occasions, the ball swung this way or that way. He also employed the three-quarter seam ball to keep the likes of Wriddhiman Saha, Sai Sudarshan and Shubman Gill quiet.

The outcome was Saha got dismissed to a delivery where width was offered, while Gill spooned a catch to deep point. It is true that those two dismissals came on the back of a couple of ordinary shots, but a large share of the credit has to go to Siraj’s accurate and incisive bowling, resulting in some tentative batting. In a nutshell, the highlight of Siraj’s performance versus GT was how he went about his business with the new ball. On a side note, in context to Siraj finding movement with the new ball, for some reason, the white Kookaburra has suddenly started to swing a little more upfront over the last three-four games.

“I was really ill for the last few days, I thought I might not be able to play today but I really wanted to play so it was great that I was able to. Got the success today after practising a lot with the new ball this year. It reminded me of last year. When I woke up in the morning, I thought I wouldn’t be able to play and that I should take rest. When I woke up, I manifested what I wanted to do and that’s exactly what happened,” he said at the presentation ceremony.

With the ICC T20 World Cup around the corner, the Indian camp also would be delighted by how Siraj stuck to his plans in the slog overs in RCB’s previous game against the same opponent. In particular, his execution was on the money while bowling to the left-handed David Miller. He blended yorkers and slower short ones in the 19th over, and more importantly, almost all those deliveries were angled across the southpaw. That is an indicator of a player who is on the top of his game and thinking on his feet before every ball.

Out of the three formats in cricket, the T20 version is probably Siraj’s weakest suit. The shortest format of the game demands a bowler to possess a range of defensive skills for the slog overs.  A bowler also needs to be mentally very tough, as at any moment, his opponent could go on a hitting spree. Weighed against that backdrop, Siraj seems to have found his zone. The bigger question is will Siraj maintain his form over a period of time? Or would his blow-hot-blow-cold performances once more frustrate his fans and the think-tank? Only time will tell.