A man named Haneef sits on a plastic chair outside a very modest small two-bedroom house in Khaja Nagar, Banjara Hills Road in Hyderabad.
"I'm a complete stranger to them, but I could not resist coming and seeing Siraj. I have been very excited from last night," he says, with a big smile.
Haneef waits eagerly with flowers in his hand as a television crew speaks to the family inside. And he isn’t alone in his excitement. Dozens of people are gathered outside the house, all waiting to get a glimpse and talk to the man of the moment, Mohammed Siraj.
Even as players like Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan went unsold in the 2017 IPL auction, held on Monday, a relatively unknown 22-year-old from Hyderabad was sold for Rs 2.6 crore. Mohammed Siraj has turned into an overnight hero, after he was recruited by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2017 season of the Indian Premier League.
For Siraj, the son of an auto driver, who spent his childhood playing galli cricket in the narrow bylanes of Khaja Nagar, this is a truly unbelievable moment. And his family just doesn’t know what to make of the sudden shift in their fortunes.
The unending flow of mediapersons and well-wishers is almost too much for the humble home – with its small hall, a kitchen on one side and two rooms on the other. As people arrive to meet the new superstar, interviews and conversations happen on the floor of the hall, where his entire family sits.
Mohammed Ismail, Siraj’s brother tells TNM, “The entire family is very happy. We were stunned when we saw the auction. They kept bidding, and finally when it said 2.6 crore, we were all in shock."
The bidding on Siraj started off at a humble Rs 20 lakh. But with Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore both bidding strong, things escalated far more quickly than Siraj or anyone else expected.
But Siraj’s relatives say it’s a fitting recognition for his amazing talents. "He was always a superb bowler. I remember when we were younger also, he was very passionate about the sport. He had a lot of energy. He could tire all the other kids out, and still insist that we play a little more," says Amjed, Siraj's cousin.
His parents, unused to the thought of someone they know becoming a cricketing star, are more stunned. "He has made us very proud. I never expected that he would go so far in life, but my Siraj has done it," says Mohammed Ghouse, Siraj's father.
"I am also very proud of him, but I have to be honest. I don't even know how cricket works as a sport. I have never watched a single game till now, but I think its time that I start," his mother Shabana Begum adds with a smile.
"I always wanted him to study. I am uneducated, so I insisted that both my sons study hard. My elder son is a software engineer, but Siraj was never interested in studies. I used to scold him a lot, but now I realise that he was meant for greater things," she says.
It was Siraj’s uncle, Akbar Khan, who encouraged him to play cricket.
"I always knew he had it in him. From a young age, I knew that he was not meant for studying. He used to bunk school and I would catch him playing some sport or the other with the local boys," says Akbar, as he draws a curtain behind the door, to reveal an entire shelf packed with trophies.
"These are not even all the trophies he has won. There are many more which we have put away," he adds.
In fact, it was Akbar, who gave Siraj his first cricket 'income': he gave his nephew a prize of Rs 500 for getting 9 wickets for 20-odd runs in a 25-over club match.
Siraj, who discontinued his education after his Intermediate, started his official career, with the Hyderabad U-22 team. In 2015, he made his first-class cricket debut in the Ranji Trophy. His T-20 debut came in 2016, with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy championship.
He was then selected for the India A team but remained on the bench. However, the IPL auction has given his career a big boost.
Despite his meteoric rise in the sport, Siraj has stayed shy and reticent, little willing to talk.
"For the first 10 minutes after the auction, I didn't know how to feel. Everyone started celebrating, and it took me a little while to come back to reality. I was overjoyed after that," he says.
He goes on to add, "I definitely worked hard, and expected to get picked for some team, but I didn't expect the amount."
Siraj says that he owes a lot to his family and his cricket coaches, who kept him motivated to play the sport. He now insists that his father stop driving the auto, even though the latter insists that this is all he knows to do in life.
"I will still take the auto out for a round or two. I know I don't have to drive it anymore because he will take care of me, but the auto has also been faithful to me," his father says.
Siraj says that he plans to buy a bigger house for his family, so that they can live more comfortably. As far the game goes, Siraj is as optimistic as he has ever been.
"I am very excited, and I can't wait to play. This is all that I have dreamed of, for the last two or three years," Siraj adds.