Siraj’s “scrambled seam” takes him from fringe to spearhead

With nine wickets in 15 matches, an economy rate of 10.08, 2022 was a forgettable IPL season for RCB bowler Mohammed Siraj. To his credit, the fast bowler from the Bengaluru-based team is making up for it with a stellar performance in 2023. In scintillating form, he already has 14 wickets from eight matches. From being a weak link in his team to being the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, it has been a wonderful transformation. His attitude, pace and consistency, everything is different. Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium is a difficult ground for bowlers, but nine of Siraj’s 14 wickets have come on the flat pitch of his home ground.

Royal Challengers Bangalore bowler Mohammed Siraj celebrates after taking the wicket of Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Andre Russell (PTI).

Siraj’s red-ball credentials were undeniable, but he has evolved rapidly as a white-ball operator to become an all-format player over the past 12 months.

In a conversation with teammate Dinesh Karthik for the official website of IPL, the RCB bowler said that the poor performance in 2022 was a realization and work on his game. “After last season, I felt that now that I am a part of the Indian team, I cannot give away runs easily. I was not able to execute; It felt very different. I told myself, ‘If I have to play in all three formats, it can’t happen. What should I do if I want to play in the World Cup? I have to live in the present'”.

“I kept it in my mind. I have the ball in my hand and it all depends on how well I execute the next ball. I am following it and getting success,” Siraj he said.

Siraj has been lethal with the new ball except in the last game against KKR on Wednesday. Scoring more than 145 consistently, he is testing the top-order with his attacking length.

The game changer for him in limited overs has been his mastery over the wobble-seam delivery. With control over his outswing as well, he says, he can help keep batsmen guessing. Speaking after taking four wickets in an ODI against Sri Lanka in January, he had said: “I had a natural in-swinger, but when I lost that, I developed a wobbly seam delivery. I needed to be effective and It took time to gain the confidence. I kept bowling that ball in the nets, then in the IPL and I thought ‘yes, I can bowl that wobbly seam ball’. I spoke to Dale Steyn about my outswing, (and) It was leaving hands very well. I started getting results with both.

An example was seen in his game against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday when he clean bowled the world’s top T20 batsman Jos Buttler in the very first over of the innings. Siraj hits the fuller length which has been his specialty this season, gets to nudge the ball and demolishes Buttler’s middle stump.

The scattered seam ball makes him more effective than the old ball. Siraj held his own when his teammates were getting beaten up in Wednesday’s game against KKR. Big-hit Andre Russell was followed by an inch-perfect Siraj yorker. “I am comfortable with any ball, new or old. The ball is coming out of the hands very well, the rhythm is good. I am getting a lot of wickets with swing. When it’s not swinging, I go back to the scattered seam, it works on any wicket.”

Sharing his process in training, he told Karthik how he gives high importance to warm-up: “I come in the morning and do my routine. I don’t take warm-up lightly. It makes me feel confident Happens. As far as my bowling routine is concerned.. I focus on the release.

Siraj is so hungry for success that his captains are finding it difficult to remove him from the attack. Ask India captain Rohit Sharma. In a video that has gone viral, Rohit light-heartedly expresses his helplessness in stopping his main bowler from going overboard during the third ODI against Sri Lanka. In search of his fifth wicket, the pacer bowled 10 of the total 22 overs in the Lankans’ innings, regardless of workload ahead of a crucial Test series (against Australia).

The way the Hyderabadi bowler has stepped up, he is one of the frontrunners to be included in the squad for the ODI World Cup to be held in India later this year. With a question mark over Jasprit Bumrah’s availability, there could be additional responsibility on the shoulder. For now, Siraj said he is enjoying the responsibility of leading the RCB attack.

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