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‘Never thought I’d play at World Cup,’ says rickshaw driver’s son Siraj

India's Mohammed Siraj celebrates after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Abdullah Shafique during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between India and Pakistan at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on 14 October 2023. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

Paceman Mohammed Siraj feared his humble roots as the son of an auto-rickshaw driver would shatter his dreams of playing at the World Cup.

On Saturday, however, the 29-year-old fast bowler played a crucial role in India’s seven-wicket rout of arch-rivals Pakistan at Ahmedabad’s 132,000-seater ground, the world’s biggest cricket arena.

He dismissed opener Abdullah Shafique lbw for 20 and later claimed the prize wicket of Pakistan captain Babar Azam who had made 50.

From 155-2, Pakistan collapsed to 191 all out in 42.5 overs.

“To be honest I never thought that I would play a World Cup because I have come from so low (background),” Hyderabad native Siraj told reporters.

Siraj, whose rickshaw-driving father died in 2020, rose from his humble beginnings to play in the cash-soaked Indian Premier League.

He made his ODI debut in 2019 and Test bow the following year.

“Now I am playing so it is a matter of achievement for me. India and Pakistan are known for their high-intensity and high-pressure games and today I saw that and I felt good.”

Siraj went wicketless for 76 runs in India’s previous win over Afghanistan but came roaring back on Saturday.

He insisted his previous performance did not affect his mindset coming into the key clash.

“Everyone has an off day. The graph can come down sometimes and one bad day doesn’t make me a bad performer,” said Siraj, who singled out Shafique’s wicket as being a planned strike.

“So I keep my confidence up with the fact that I am bowling well. This confidence helps me in my bowling and I have backed myself to do that and got the result today.”

Siraj was ably supported by the rest of the bowlers with Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, and Hardik Pandya also taking two wickets each.

“Our bowling unit is doing so well, it’s not that just one bowler is performing,” said Siraj.

“Everyone is putting up his hand even if someone is not getting a wicket then he is building pressure and bowling a dot ball. All this will help the team succeed.”

India remains favorites to win the tournament after they registered their third win in as many matches to lead the 10-team table.

“This is a World Cup match, and every match is very important for us, not just an India-Pakistan match,” said Siraj.

“We are focusing on one match at a time. We played three and won three. The environment is very good.”

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