Mohammed Siraj broke into the international scene during the Test series in Australia. He pocketed 13 wickets in 3 Tests, finishing as India's highest wicket-taker.
Since the Indian bowling department was plagued with injuries to senior pros Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, Siraj ended up the side's most experienced player by the end of the series.
While he is reaping rewards of his hard work, the fast bowler says he owes his career to Skipper Virat Kohli because he has supported him through thick and thin. Siraj credits Kohli for always believing in him and giving him the confidence that he can perform at the top level.
When Siraj received the tragic news of his father's death in Australia which broke him down completely, it was Kohli who once again became his pillar of strength.
Even though he was not expected to start any game, Siraj decided to stay in Australia and it changed his life for good. Injuries to senior fast bowlers Bumrah, Shami and Umesh Yadav worked in Siraj's favour and he ended up playing last three Tests on the memorable tour.
'I had lost my father during the Australia series. I was shattered and not really in my senses. It was Virat bhaiya who gave me strength and support. Mera career Virat bhaiya ke wajah se hai (I owe my career to Virat),' Siraj told Timesofindia.com.
'He has supported me through thick and thin. He has always been there for me and in all circumstances. I still remember how I was crying in the hotel room. Virat bhaiya came into my room and hugged me tightly and said, "I am with you, don't worry." Those words encouraged me a lot,' Siraj, who also plays alongside Kohli for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, added.
Kohli returned home after playing the first Test to be with wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child, but he stayed in touch with Siraj over calls and messages and kept motivating him, which Siraj believes is the reason why he could perform like the way he did on the tour.
'He played just one Test on the tour, but his messages and calls motivated me. And that's why I could perform. In fact, I didn't have a good season with RCB in the past two years. But he was always there to support me. He has backed me a lot,' said Siraj, who is part of India's Test squad for the World Test Championship final and a five-Test series against England.