rediscovering rhythm

Siraj gets back on the song after finding his groove.

After Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s loss at the Wankhede Stadium, Faf du Plessis was ruthlessly honest in outlining the two components of the team’s issues in the first quarter of the 2024 Indian Premier League. The captain of the RCB claimed that his side was failing to score enough runs, particularly in the PowerPlay, to make up for its poor bowling.

Mohammed Siraj was rested when the team returned from that frustrating trip to Mumbai for a home game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. The intermission during an intense schedule proved to be a perfect moment for the World Cup-bound fast-bowling leader. In addition to avoiding the shame of “the 287,” he was essentially given a 10-day reprieve from competitive activity by missing one game—a difficult perk for an Indian international playing in the IPL.

It’s difficult, but difficult for everyone. Regarding the demanding tournament schedule, RCB bowling coach Adam Griffith stated, “Everyone travels a lot [in the IPL].” “All it takes is keeping an eye on things and knowing when to bowl. Because bowling is something you have to do, practice, and improve upon. However, you also need to be invigorated and prepared to work. Right now, I believe Siraj has struck a really nice balance. He is highly aware of his body and is aware of the necessary preparations. We may occasionally need to push him a little bit in that direction, but he’s pretty good, and I’ve known him for about five years, so I know when he’s progressing nicely and when he needs to take a break. We’re not too bad at keeping an eye on him.

“When he gets tired, he plays like any other player. It’s critical that you give him that respite. That is equally crucial to the training process. even more significant at times. He is a rhythm bowler, and he relies heavily on his run-up. Consequently, we want him to be fresh and running hard while figuring out his ideal pace for the run-up to ensure he’s performing really well.”

In Kolkata, he showed signs of life when he employed a well-planned full-length strategy against Sunil Narine. In Hyderabad, where Siraj was dismissed for just 20 runs in his four overs, further progress was made. He blasted an almost flawless yorker in Ahmedabad to stop a raiding Shahrukh Khan. Siraj was still required by RCB as a PowerPlay expert. Siraj had taken just two wickets for 171 runs from 17 PowerPlay overs at an economy of 10.05 prior to Saturday night’s rematch against the Gujarat Titans. This was a long cry from his 10 wickets at an astounding 5.93 ER from the previous season.

As it happened, Siraj was experiencing the after effects of a sickness on the morning of the game, and he was on the verge of missing another home game. However, he made the decision to press on, and after a 20-day break, the Chinnaswamy Stadium welcomed him with open arms. The ball shot off the surface and moved laterally, seemingly rejuvenated by the rain that fell on the eve of the game. Mike Hesson stated in a Cricbuuzz interview that Siraj’s outstanding ability to drag his length back was crucial to his fantastic 2023 season. In his two PowerPlay overs, Siraj conceded just nine runs while pinning Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill.

Siraj remarked, “This felt great today because that new ball is my strength.” “I was quite successful with the new ball last year, taking a lot of wickets. The performance today reminded me of last year. After playing red-ball cricket for a while, switching to white-ball cricket was unexpected and difficult. At first, my rhythm was off. I had the impression that something was missing. However, as I continued to practice, my rhythm returned.”

One change was a collaborative decision to bowl straighter lines and force hitters to take more aggressive options from there, as bowling coach Griffith disclosed. Siraj’s decision to fire Gill served as an example of the idea. Star Sports revealed an eye-opening statistic during the pre-game show: the Titans captain’s average dropped from 58.7 when balls missed the stumps to just 17.2 when they did. Gill was obliged to aim for the legside boundary because to Siraj’s inherent inward slant, but the ball straightened enough after pitching to catch the leading edge. After winning the PowerPlay, the outcome appeared inevitable.

“He is the most seasoned bowler in our team, particularly among our Indian quicks, but he also has experience with our international players.” In the past few years, he has made numerous appearances for India and has performed incredibly well. It’s not just him bowling well that has him up and going. His aggressiveness, his nonverbal cues, and his willingness to challenge hitters in an attempt to secure wickets are crucial components of our strategy. We really need him to get back on track, hit the ball, bowl quickly, and be aggressive,” Griffith remarked.