Kolkata: Mohammed Siraj, who was a welcome addition to India’s assembly line of pace bowlers with a 13-wicket haul in the Test series Down Under, admitted that the racial abuse from the crowd during third Test in Sydney made him mentally strong.
“The crowd in Australia began to abuse me but it made me mentally strong. I did not let it affect my game and that was important,” said Siraj, who lived up to his recently deceased father’s wishes of doing his ‘‘country proud.’’ A 13-wicket haul from three Tests, including a fiver in Brisbane, made him the highest wicket-taker for India who wrapped up the series 2-1 in a sensational manner.
According to Indian media, shouts of “monkey” and other insults rang out when Siraj and fellow fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah were fielding near the boundary. “I told my captain Ajju bhai (Ajinkya Rahane) about the abuse and he spoke to the umpires who said you can leave the field. Rahane said: ‘We will play on.’”
He said Rahane told the umpires to take action over the abuse. Six fans were ejected and an investigation into the incident is underway.
Siraj, who headed straight to his father’s grave on return from Australia, was speaking after receiving a hero’s welcome in his home city on Thursday - where his father, an auto rickshaw driver, died as India were in quarantine in Australia but the player decided to stay with the team.
“First of all, it was very difficult for me. Mentally I was upset and depressed,” he said. “I had a chat with them back home and they said that I should complete Dad’s dream (of playing for India).”
Thanking his Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore for his growth as a player, Siraj said: “I had a bad season in 2018, but RCB backed me. Virat bhai (his skipper) has always backed me, saying ‘You have the power and you can do it’.”
“I will not let this performance go to my head. I cannot relax as there is the England series and the World Test Championship coming up.”
India, now the world’s top Test nation, are virtually assured of a place in the WTC final at Lord’s in June.
The England Test series is scheduled to begin on February 5 with the first two matches to be played in Chennai before they travel to Ahmedabad for the last two games.
England squad: Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes. Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.