EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India

EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India NEW DELHI: It was the year 2004 when a 23-year-old Nathan Hauritz, an off-spinner from Wondai, Queensland, was handed his Test debut cap. It was a Test against India, the fourth and last Test of a four-match series, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Hauritz, who was playing under Ricky Ponting’s leadership, impressed everyone by claiming five wickets in the match, including the prized scalps of Indian batting legends Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
Interestingly, Hauritz also played his career’s last Test match against India and managed to send MS Dhoni and Cheteshwar Pujara back to the hut at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Hauritz has fond memories of his debut match and the Indian crowd and also visiting one of the seven wonders in the world – the Taj Mahal in Agra.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with the former Australian cricketer, who played 17 Tests, 58 ODIs and 3 T20Is from 2004 to 2011 to talk about India’s WTC performance, Virat Kohli the captain, India’s two back-to-back Test series wins in Australia, life post retirement, being in Brisbane which is under lockdown and much more.
EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India(Nathan Hauritz played the first and last Test of his career against India – Twitter Photo)
What has life been like post-retirement?
We are in Brisbane in the middle of the lockdown. We have been very lucky and blessed in terms of what is happening all around the world. I have been playing a little bit of cricket and coaching as well. I am currently involved in full-time coaching in an academy in Brisbane. I am really busy on the coaching front. The last couple of days have been relaxing for me. I am just catching my breath and rejuvenating myself before the season starts.
What went wrong for India in the WTC final, according to you?
Indian batters didn’t use the conditions well. They failed to judge the conditions. India’s middle-order is not firing at the moment. That was the reason. A lot was on Virat’s shoulder and he knows that. The decision of playing two spinners in England, in the place that was raining, that was a very unusual decision. Better to have taken a chance with seamers. I think Siraj would have made a difference. He did well in Australia and his inclusion would have been great.
EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India(New Zealand defeated India by eight wickets in the World Test Championship final – Reuters Photo)
Will this WTC final defeat have any impact on Virat’s men ahead of the England Test series, you think?
I don’t think so. You are playing at such a level when you are mentally strong and leave bad things behind and move on. It’s really important that you move on pretty quickly, have a look at everything, see what’s going on and make improvements where needed. You can’t really focus on what’s happened, you’ve got to keep moving forward and keep focusing on the next game.
You made your Test debut against India and played your last Test against India. Your favourite cricketing memory…
For me, my favorite moment would have been just playing my debut Test against India. Getting Tendulkar out in my first Test was incredible. I loved the Indian people, the crowd, the fans, the buzz around. It was such an amazing environment to be part of. On a travelling note, going to the Taj Mahal was simply amazing.
EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India(VVS Laxman, left, and MS Dhoni – TOI Photo)
You have played against former India captains Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni. Now, Virat is leading the side. What big difference do you see in the captaincy styles of Virat vis a vis Dravid and Dhoni?
Virat Kohli is very passionate. You can definitely see that in his game and he wants to win every game. Both Rahul Dravid and Dhoni were very calm while captaining. The difference I reckon between the sides is that the (current) team is rebuilding. Look, back in the day you had Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni, (Sourav) Ganguly, (Virender) Sehwag and (Gautam) Gambhir. That was an incredibly strong batting lineup. Whereas this one now is a very young side that’s rebuilding and it’s something they got to make sure that they keep building from here.
Would you compare Virat the captain with say someone like Ricky Ponting?
It’s pretty hard to compare. Virat’s passion is second to none in the world. Ricky Ponting was a passionate player as well. Both showed their passion in a different way. And the way they approach the game, Virat is probably one of the best batsmen to have ever played the game. He’s been a fantastic leader. The WTC final didn’t go the way he would have liked. But it was affected by rain. So I think it’s just really important to stay true to himself and what the team needs to work on and he needs to pass that message on and be accountable as a leader.
EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Siraj would have made a difference for India(Virat Kohli leads the Indian team off the ground after losing the WTC Final against New Zealand – PTI Photo)
India won back-to-back Test series in Australia. Have they shed the tag of bad travellers now?
I think that stigma is always going to be there for the side that hasn’t travelled well. It’s going to be tough to break. They played well against Australia and got some really key moments. And look in Australia predominantly, they’re very hard to beat on their own soil. But I think the Indian side, at the moment, has been performing well enough to justify probably getting rid of that tag.
The Virat-led Indian team won their maiden Border-Gavaskar series against Australia who were without Steve Smith and David Warner. In the series after that India lost the Adelaide Test and went on to win the Test series under Ajinkya Rahane’s leadership. Which India triumph would you rate as the better one?
Virat had been a fantastic leader. He went away and Rahane did really well and took India to a win. It’s very hard to choose one or the other all the time. You’ve got to back the leader, and like he (Virat) is doing his best job. And as I said earlier, it’s not just the leader, it’s the whole group. It’s part of their team and just got to find ways to improve each day. Just get that little bit better each day.


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