Siraj visits father's grave after fulfilling test dream

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - While his India team mates lapped up the acclaim after returning from their triumphant Australia tour, Mohammed Siraj drove straight from Hyderabad airport to a burial ground to pay his respects to his father, who passed away in November.

The right-arm quick was one of the heroes of India's epic 2-1 series victory in Australia, where he finished as their leading wicket-taker.

After this father, Mohammed Ghouse, died on Nov. 20 the pacer's mother and India captain Virat Kohli urged him to stay on in Australia rather than head home to grieve with his family, despite having no assurances he would feature in the series.

His chance came in Melbourne, where he made his test debut in place of Mohammed Shami, who had broken his elbow in the series opener in Adelaide.

Siraj then found himself leading India's injury-ravaged pace attack in the Brisbane decider, where he claimed his maiden five-wicket haul to finish the series with 13 wickets from his three tests.

"It was the most difficult time for me to be there at his burial place," the 26-year-old told local media after laying flowers on his father's grave on Thursday.

"I was just circling unknowingly, never thought would have go to through such a phase."

His mental strength was further tested in Sydney where a section of the crowd targeted him.

"The abuse from some in the Australian crowd made me mentally strong," Siraj said.

"The fact that I did not allow that abuse to have an effect on my game was important."

The Hyderabad player will hope to maintain his good form after being retained in the squad for the first two tests of a four-match series against England.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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