Monday, September 18, 2023
Mohammad Siraj, the standout Indian pacer in the somewhat lackluster Asia Cup 2023 final, displayed a heartwarming gesture towards the Sri Lankan ground staff who endured challenging conditions due to the rainy season in the country throughout the course of the tournament.
Jointly hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Asian cricket event reached a successful conclusion, featuring four matches for Pakistan and nine for Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, rain cast a shadow over most Sri Lanka-based matches, leading to a no-result clash between the Green Shirts and India in the group stage.
Even the Super 4 stage's semi-final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was marred by rain, highlighting the weather challenges faced during the event.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan ground staff were praised for their efforts to ensure the completion of rain-affected matches — something that touched the Indian bowler as well, as the 29-year-old handed over his $5,000 'Player of the Match' cheque to the ground staff at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Siraj, who proved to be a game-changer in the Asia Cup finale, said: "This award goes to the ground staff. Without them, this tournament wouldn't have been possible. They deserve all the credit."
The chief of the Asian Cricket Council, Jay Shah, too, announced a $50,000 award on behalf of the ACC and Sri Lanka Cricket for curators and ground staff working in Kandy.
Siraj's excellent bowling performance on Sunday disrupted the Sri Lankan batting lineup, as he took six wickets for 21 runs in his overs, restricting them to a mere 50 runs. India's win was followed up by a fast-paced chase to secure their eighth Asia Cup title.
The pacer first removed Pathum Nissanka and followed up with wickets of Charith Asalanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Dhananjaya de Silva to leave Sri Lanka struggling at 12 for five in four overs.
The right-arm pacer ended with an historic figure of six for 21 in seven overs.
With his remarkable achievement, Siraj equalled former Sri Lanka pacer Chaminda Vaas for the quickest ODI five-for, reaching the feat in just 16 balls. Vaas achieved the milestone against Bangladesh in 2003.
He also completed 50 ODI wickets during the spell, reaching the milestone in his 29th ODI, the joint-fourth-quickest among all Indian bowlers.