Dad backed Siraj, even when he’d miss exams, says brother

New Delhi: Mohammed Siraj and his elder brother Ismail are grateful to their late father because he wouldn’t erupt in anger when exam results would reveal that the pace bowler was skipping them to play cricket matches. He would instead encourage him to play good cricket.

“Siraj used to skip exams to play cricket. We never knew about it. When results would come, there used to be absent marked against his name. Then only we would find out that he had skipped exams and gone to play cricket. In fact, every time exams used to happen, he would skip them and go to play cricket – even at the intermediate level. He used to focus more on cricket than studies. That was his priority,” recalls Mohammed Ismail, who was more inclined towards academics and went on to become an engineer in computer science.

“But our father backed him a lot. He just wanted to see his son play Test cricket. He never considered ODIs or T20s as important as Test cricket. He used to say that actual cricket is Test cricket. What good is T20 cricket where a batsman can hit your good ball for a six? T20s and ODIs are batsman’s game. Test is different from these. Test cricket is the test of potential. Dad never used to play cricket but would take a lot of interest in the game,” Ismail told IANS from Hyderabad.

“The dream my father had was to see him play Tests. We are grateful that the dream has come true. It is a moment of joy but we wish dad was alive to see his son’s success,” said Ismail.

The 26-year-old fast bowler, who became only the fifth Indian bowler to take a five-wicket haul in a Test at the Gabba, on Monday credited his mother for backing him over the last couple of months during a tough period in which he lost his father.

“I talked to folks at home, spoke to mom. They encouraged me, made me feel strong,” Siraj said.

Ismail too credited their mother. “He has been away since August. Mummy handled it well. She is very strong. It is because of her that Siraj can focus on his game. He calls regularly and speaks to her. She would talk to him on phone and encourage him to play,” Ismail said.

Siraj had on Monday explained that he had been following the fitness regimen given to him by the National Cricket Academy and worked out at home. It ensured that he bowled 134.2 overs in the series, the most by an Indian bowler, without any hint of tiredness even while manning the outfield.

Ismail revealed that during lockdown, Siraj would jog in the neighbourhood.

“He would put on his shoes and jog in the bylanes of Toli Chowki in the morning and work out at gym in the evening. Fitness has always played a key role in his life,” Ismail said.