Hyderabad: With the World Test championship final scheduled to take place just a few days from now, the minds of cricket fans all over the world are busy calculating the plus and minus points of India and New Zealand and trying to predict which team will emerge as the winner. The game’s followers in Hyderabad are not only hoping that India will win but also that Mohammed Siraj will be selected and will play a key role in the match.
Mohammed Azharuddin who has led India in 47 Test matches and 174 ODIs has provided an expert opinion on the issue. Azhar led India to 90 ODI victories which remained a record for an Indian captain till it was broken by M.S. Dhoni many years later. Azhar has led the Indian team in England and knows all about the conditions there. So there is no better judge than Azhar when it is a matter of making an assessment of the chances of Mohammed Siraj.
Speaking to siasat.com, the former India captain said that Siraj had all the weapons required to demolish the rivals in the WTC final if he is selected.
“Siraj can definitely perform well in England because the ball will swing and reverse swing. He will be an ideal bowler under English conditions. The way he has bowled so far shows that he has the pace and control to cause problems for the best of New Zealand’s batsmen,” said Azhar.
Asked if Siraj had enough experience to exploit the English conditions, Azhar said: “Well, I feel that he has a natural ability to bowl at a hostile pace and move the ball around. That itself will be a big advantage in England. As for bowling against top class rival batsmen, he has plenty of experience. He has played several seasons in the IPL which has given him a good idea of what to expect from batsmen like Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.”
“Those two are the best among the New Zealanders. If we can get them out cheaply, then half our task is done. However there may be one or two others who may spring a surprise, so we have to be on our guard. For example Devon Conway seems to be in good touch. He may prove to be a thorn in our flesh. But I am confident that unless something goes horribly wrong, our bowlers will have the upper hand,” said Azhar.
Asked if he had any words of advice for Siraj, the former skipper said:
“If I was the captain, I would tell Siraj to pitch the ball up. Bowl to a full length and never bowl short. That will give the ball some room to swing. And he must stick to an accurate line and force the batsmen to play at every ball. With the ball swinging late, there is likelihood that the ball will take the edge of the bat sooner or later,” Azhar explained.
“No doubt they (New Zealand) will have the advantage of having played matches before going into the WTC final but then we have players who are accomplished enough to make adjustments and adapt quickly. If one is a professional player then one is expected to be able to modify one’s approach and methods very quickly to different surfaces and different conditions. So I don’t think that pitch and weather conditions will be a setback for our players,” Azhar stated.
The former captain’s words should come as a big boost for Siraj who looks all set to become Hyderabad’s best ever fast bowler. Several experts have expressed the opinion that Siraj will definitely be selected for the WTC final. Among them are Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Syed Saba Karim who was India’s wicket keeper and later a national selector. Both have expressed opinions which are similar to that of Azhar.
According to Saba Karim, since the New Zealand team has four left-handers, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri would definitely want to include Siraj in the pace bowling battery. Siraj has perfected the line that troubles left-handers. All Siraj has to do is keep firing away and maintain his focus on his bowling. Being a simple man from a humble background, he is likely to continue with his hard work. If all goes well, the WTC final will be a chance for him to add one more feather to his cap.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.