Mohammed Siraj didn’t go home in November when his father died, deciding instead to stay in Australia and try to fulfill a dream for his late dad.
In a matter of weeks, he’s been elevated from backup bowler — picked for the tour as cover following some injuries to veteran pacemen — to leading India’s injury-depleted attack in the series-deciding test match at the Gabba.
He snared his maiden five-wicket haul on Monday, helping to dismiss Australia for 294 late on the penultimate day of the fourth and final test, leaving India a target of 328 to win.
“If he was alive, he would’ve been so happy,”Siraj said. “But I had his blessings and that’s why I took five wickets today. I’m speechless today, about this performance. I don’t have many words.”
Siraj said he recalled a conversation with his mother, who encouraged him to stay on tour in Australia and to do his father proud.
“I spoke with my people at home. I felt strong after talking to my family, talking to my mother, and I was also strong mentally about this. My focus was that to accomplish my dad’s wish for me. Thank God, it got accomplished today. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
The highest successful run chase at the Gabba was in 1951, when Australia finished 236-7 against the West Indies. The Australians haven’t lost at the Gabba since 1988, but nobody is counting India out.
And it’s because of the way the likes of Siraj and the other players drafted in to fill voids left by the absence of regular starters have taken on the game that makes the tourists so much confidence.
The openers faced 1.5 overs before rain stopped play and India was four without loss — one scoring stroke from Rohit Sharma.
Stumps was called shortly after 5 p.m. local time, giving India three sessions, weather-permitting, to try to get 324 more runs.
Siraj put down two catches before picking up the key wicket of Steve Smith for 55 in the middle session.
Australia was 243-7 at tea on day four — a rain shower forcing an early break — with an overall lead of 276 and a declaration seemingly imminent.
But the hosts continued batting when play resumed in gloomy conditions in the evening session, adding a further 51 runs for three wickets.
Pat Cummins finished unbeaten on 28. Nathan Lyon, in his 100th test, took Australia’s lead past 300 when he hooked a six off Siraj but was out soon after for 13, giving Thakur his fourth wicket of the innings and seventh of the match.
Thakur took the catch off Siraj’s bowling to dismiss last man Josh Hazlewood (9). Siraj, leading the India attack in just his third test in the injury-enforced absence of Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, returned 5-73 for his career-best figures.