HYDERABAD: Despite all the controversies surrounding the Indian Premier League, the T20 cricket tournament has, in its now 10th year of existence, turned many a slumdog into millionaires. The Pathan and Pandya brothers, Iqbal Adulla, Nathu Singh and Kamran Khan are among a host of cricketers from poor background whose lives have been transformed.

The latest in this long list of players is Hyderabad's Mohammed Siraj. The 22-year-old struck gold when he was pouched by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs 2.6 crore - his base price was just Rs 20 lakh.

The son of an autorickshaw driver, Siraj has, in a short span of three years, carved a niche for himself. "It's a dream come true for me. I am thrilled about it as I hadn't expected to be picked up for such a high price. I was hoping to play for some team this year as I have performed quite well but this price tag is beyond my expectation," Siraj told TOI here on Monday.

"I want to buy a decent house first. Will see what else to do later," he said when asked how he plans to use the money.

What is fascinating about the youngster's journey is that he has never been to a coaching academy. "I was fascinated with the game from a young age but didn't get an opportunity to go in for any formal coaching. My parents wanted me to study and get a good job so that I could help the family financially. But I was smitten by cricket and used to play 'gulli' (street) cricket with a tennis ball in our area.

"However, I managed to complete my intermediate from Shafa Junior College but was not much into studies. My passion was to play cricket at the highest level," he said.

The turning point for Siraj came when he was picked up to play in the one-day league for Col Acrylic three seasons ago. A natural talent, the right-arm fast bowler took to the game as a duck takes to the water. The next season he played for Charminar Cricket Club in the two-day league and things moved at a breakneck pace.

Siraj generated great pace and that caught the attention of the selectors. He was picked up for the U-23 probables' team and got a five wicket haul which helped him get a berth in the Hyderabad U-23 team. He continued to pick up wickets regularly and became a frontline bowler for the team.

His Ranji Trophy debut for Hyderabad against Services in November 2015 didn't go well as he bagged a solitary wicket but that didn't stop the youngster. "It was not a good match but I went back to work on my basics," he added.

Things, however, fell in place with the appointment of Bharat Arun as the coach of the Hyderabad team this season. Siraj was part of the troika of pacers who helped Hyderabad march into the quarters of the Ranji Trophy. He bagged 41 wickets this season.

"Arun sir and captain Badrinath were the ones who shaped my career. They played a big role in my growth. They motivated me and gave me the confidence to believe in my skills and perform well. Arun sir told me to stick to a three quarter length without giving up on my pace. In fact, most of my wickets were either bowled or leg before," he added.

Siraj, who was in the India A team which took on Australia in a tour game recently, is not disturbed that he didn't get to play in that game. "It happens. I was a bit disappointed not to play but I knew that I will get my chance. It was a great thing to watch the Australian fast bowlers from such close quarters," he said.

courtesy TOI