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Mohammed Siraj's swift rise up the Indian ranks

Following an impressive showing in the IPL and domestic cricket, a call-up for the T20I series against New Zealand has put fast bowler Mohammed Siraj closer to realising his India dream

Arun Venugopal
Mohammed Siraj's rise over the last year has been as fascinating as it has been swift. The son of an autorickshaw driver in Hyderabad, Siraj got hooked to the game while in class seven after he was part of the team that won an inter-school tournament. From then on, he would frequently skip classes to play tennis-ball cricket. His pace and an ability to take wickets in clumps meant he acquired a cult status in his mohalla in the Banjara Hills locality.
It wasn't until 2015 that Siraj took to playing with the cricket ball, upon a friend's insistence. He took took a slew of five-fors in his first few club matches and soon found himself in Hyderabad's Under-23 side, and then in the senior team. While he played only one game in his first season in the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy, he grabbed eyeballs the very next year with 41 wickets at an average of 18.92 as Hyderabad made the quarter-finals. He was subsequently picked in the Irani Trophy to play for the Rest of India.
Earlier this year, aged only 22, Siraj made the jump to the big leagues when Sunrisers Hyderabad acquired him for a whopping INR 2.6 crore. During the 2016-17 domestic season, Siraj admitted to being taken in by the lavish lifestyle - the air travel and five-star accommodation - a professional cricketer's life offered. Midway through the IPL, Siraj was doing promotional events and obliging requests for selfies, even if somewhat awkwardly. Such initiation is certain to come in handy once he links up with the Indian side for the T20Is against New Zealand.
Sturdy and athletic, Siraj has a deceptive run-up, which initially suggests that a left-arm bowler is steaming in. He is, however, a right-armer and by his own admission is a natural at getting the ball to swing into the right-hander. It was only since 2016 that he started expanding his repertoire. He has always been able to bowl a pretty quick bouncer though, something that had impressed his captain David Warner and team mentor VVS Laxman in the Sunrisers set-up.
Siraj picked up 10 wickets from six games in the IPL, including a four-for against Gujarat Lions. He took that form into the India A tour of South Africa, where he took a match haul of 5 for 103 in the only unofficial Test he played. He also claimed five wickets from three limited-overs matches against South Africa A and Afghanistan A. Siraj took 2 for 74 in the only Duleep Trophy game he played last month, and in the first unofficial Test against New Zealand A, he bowled the obstinate Jeet Raval for 34 and broke Will Young's stumps for a duck as well. He also finished with two wickets in the two List A matches against New Zealand A.

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun