Indian cricket team’s pace sensation, Mohammed Siraj, has undergone a remarkable transformation in his international career. He made his T20I debut in November 2017 against New Zealand in Rajkot, but the debut was far from memorable as he was hit for 53 runs in four overs, despite dismissing Kane Williamson.

His ODI debut in January 2019 against Australia in Adelaide was equally challenging, with Siraj conceding 76 runs in 10 overs without taking a wicket. However, by the time he earned his maiden Test cap against Australia in Melbourne during the historic 2020-21 series, he had evolved into a significantly improved bowler. Despite this progress, doubts continued to persist about his white-ball capabilities.

Over the past year, Siraj has silenced his critics with exceptional performances across all formats. His standout moment came in the Asia Cup 2023 final, a “dream come true,” as he describes it, but it was the culmination of rigorous behind-the-scenes work that has molded him into the potent force he is today.

When examining Siraj’s international performance since October 2022, it becomes evident that he has truly excelled. In ODIs, he has featured in 19 matches, capturing a remarkable haul of 40 wickets at an impressive average of 15.22. His standout performance was a sensational 6/21 in the Asia Cup 2023 final in Colombo. Notably, he has maintained his high standards both at home (average of 14.79) and away (average of 13.07), although all these games were played in Asia.

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Some of his noteworthy ODI performances include 3/38 against South Africa in Ranchi (October 2022), 3/32 against Bangladesh in Mirpur (December 2022), 3/30 against Sri Lanka in Kolkata (January 2023), 4/32 against Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram (January 2023), 4/46 against New Zealand in Hyderabad (January 2023), and 3/29 against Australia in Mumbai (March 2023). These outstanding displays propelled Siraj to the No. 1 ranking in the ODI format.

In T20Is, he showcased his excellence during the New Zealand tour late last year, recording figures of 2/24 in Mount Maunganui and 4/17 in Napier. In Test cricket, he has claimed 19 wickets in eight matches, including a remarkable five-for against West Indies at Port of Spain on a challenging pitch.

What sets Siraj apart now is his transformation as a bowler. He has evolved into a more controlled and refined version of his previous self. While retaining his aggressive nature, he has honed his bowling skills, gaining the ability to swing the ball both ways. Loose deliveries from Siraj are a rare sight, leaving batsmen unsure whether the ball is moving in or out. His development of the wobble seam delivery has added another layer to his versatility and unpredictability.

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Reflecting on his recent success, Siraj credited the wobble seam delivery, stating, “It is always difficult for batters in all formats if you bowl the right line. I started bowling with a wobble seam in the nets to develop the in-swinger. The wobble seam keeps the batters guessing where the ball will go.”

Despite earlier concerns about his over-aggressive demeanor, Siraj has matured significantly at the age of 29. While he hasn’t abandoned his fiery competitiveness, there is now a method to his bowling that makes him even more effective.

One of the key reasons why India is considered a favorite for the ICC World Cup 2023 at home is their formidable bowling attack. As a duo, Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah present a menacing opening combination. Siraj has repeatedly demonstrated that he can be Team India’s X-factor in the World Cup, capable of making the ball talk in challenging conditions where most pace bowlers struggle. Their partnership complements each other brilliantly, and if they hit their stride, they can make life extremely challenging for opposition batsmen during the ODI World Cup in India.

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While Bumrah will lead the pace attack, Siraj has provided ample evidence that he can be equally destructive, both at the start and end of an innings. Consequently, all teams participating in the ODI World Cup will be wary of the formidable duo, with Siraj’s newfound excellence complementing Bumrah’s exceptional skills.