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Siraj Sizzles, Leaves India Spoilt for Choice: The Envy-Inducing Dilemma!

#CWC23 | #Siraj's spell has given a food for thought to the think-tank - who do India drop upon Hardik's return?

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Neighbour’s envy, Owner's Pride! This famous tagline for a television product back in the 1980s is still vivid in the minds of the millennials who were born in India.

Millennials are essentially those born between 1981 and 1996. A generation who are currently either outside the country running a successful tech firm in Silicon Valley or are nestled elsewhere but still rooting for their favourite cricket team, India.

Years after they have left the country, they still believe in the team that they so dearly loved in their teenage years, but sadly underachieved. This was the team of the 1990s.

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Thankfully, after Thursday night, there will be more pride than envy in the minds of those millennials whose hearts still beat for the Indian cricket team. One man who was the only shining light of a lost generation, Sachin Tendulkar, would have beamed with pride following the demolition job at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday night.

There was a time when the millennials used to wonder why don’t we have fast bowlers like the Pakistanis or why do our batters not go all hell for leather like the Sri Lankans. Of course, then we also wanted them to field like Australia and be ruthless like the West Indies. But it was more the Pakistanis and Sri Lankans that made the Indians envious. India had just one Tendulkar who could match the maverick Pakistanis and Sri Lankans.

#CWC23 | #Siraj's spell has given a food for thought to the think-tank - who do India drop upon Hardik's return?

Mohammed Siraj in action during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and Sri Lanka, at Wankhede Stadium, in Mumbai, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

Image: PTI

Then Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya re-emerged in grand style and destroyed the Indian millennials forever. He bashed every Indian bowler out of sight. Sadly, till date that memory of Jayasuriya destroying Manoj Prabhakar, Venkatesh Prasad and others gives nightmares.

When Jayasuriya batted for nearly three days with Roshan Mahanama in the historic Test of 1997 at Colombo’s expressway also known as R Premadasa Stadium, you lost all hope in humanity. India’s captain at the time, Tendulkar still cannot get over that match. A Test debutant then, Nilesh Kulkarni, picked a wicket off the very first ball he bowled and then did not pick any for the rest of the game!

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Last night was a redemption of sorts for all these gentlemen as they saw India demolish Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium. Tendulkar was on hand to witness the demolition job himself and must have felt a sense of relief. Tendulkar obviously had to bear the brunt of the collective disappointment that Indians felt in the 1990s.

But all that has changed now.

The sort of feeling you get as an Indian watching Jayasuriya bat, is the same thing that Sri Lankans feel when they see Mohammed Siraj on a field with a ball in his hand. Siraj single handedly destroyed Sri Lanka in 2023 in ODI cricket. This is simply an exceptional performance that is just mind boggling to say the least.

In 2023 Sri Lanka had three sub 100 totals of 73, 50 and 55 in ODI cricket. All three totals have come against only one team, India! And the man starting off all the damage in all three games has been Siraj.
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It seems now that the very sight of Siraj with the ball makes the Sri Lankans quake in their boots. They just do not know how to move their feet when Siraj is moving the ball!

Just look at the dismissals of Sri Lanka’s top-order on Thursday and you realise just how difficult it has been for them. Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama and skipper Kusal Mendis were all at sea against Siraj.

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Now, the Hyderabadi is playing with the Sri Lankan minds and is living there rent free there. This was just what Jayasuriya used to do to Indian sides in the 1990s.

When he is not taking wickets or appealing, the 29-year-old is also taking on the batters verbally. In what was an unnecessary phase of play, Siraj kept pushing Charith Asalanka to play his deliveries rather than miss it. Asalanka, like his peers, was elsewhere mentally at the time as Siraj had him completely bamboozled. It took Asalanka a long time to just get off the mark. This was Siraj’s victory. So, the verbals from India’s bowling hero were simply not required at that stage. Eventually the pressure got to Asalanka and he fell cheaply.

#CWC23 | #Siraj's spell has given a food for thought to the think-tank - who do India drop upon Hardik's return?

Mohammed Siraj celebrates the wicket of Sri Lanka batsman Kusal Mendis during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and Sri Lanka, at Wankhede Stadium, in Mumbai, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

Image: PTI

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He did a similar demolition job of Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final and India emerged champion even before the sun set. This time however the authorities had to switch on the lights as India batted the full 50 overs and then Sri Lanka had to step out to bat.

Every batter kept playing out of fear and that resulted in Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami also feasting on them.

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But despite all the heroics of Shami, the credit for Thursday’s demolition job should go to Siraj. He swung the ball, kept probing the batters and forced them to commit errors.

This spell by the speedster came after a poor return in the previous few games. For someone who had an enviable powerplay record in ODIs, Siraj finally felt himself on Thursday. Maybe it was just the sight of the Sri Lankan batters which put Siraj’s mind at ease!

One good thing for Sri Lankans is that they do not play India in any format at home or away till July 2024. Then India will tour Sri Lanka for three ODIs and three T20Is, Sri Lankan batters can rest easy till then as they will not have to see Siraj with a ball in his hand against them.

But what Siraj’s performance coupled with Shami’s outstanding returns has done is put the Indian team think-tank in a quandary. They now just will not know what to do when all-rounder Hardik Pandya returns to the playing XI. Who do they leave out?  They started the tournament with Shami on the bench, but now they will not dare leave him out. Siraj has made a telling statement on Thursday, so he has dared them too.
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Famous American actor and musician Peter Tork famously noted once: “For where there is clarity, there is no choice. And where there is choice, there is misery.”

Thankfully though it has not reached a stage of misery for the Indian management.  For now, it is more a case of owning with pride the embarrassment of riches that India currently has and looking at the neighbours being envious of it all.

After all, what goes around, comes around! 

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