Mohammed Siraj has claimed that the alleged racial abuse he faced during the Australia Test series did not break his character and instead helped him develop mental strength to outclass the opponents.
Going into the details about the disgraceful racist abuse scandal in the third Test in Sydney, Siraj revealed that the Indian team declined an offer from the umpires to walk off the field.
Siraj and fellow paceman Jasprit Bumrah were reportedly insulted by distasteful chants of "monkey" and other swear words while fielding at the boundary.
India's stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane was forced to call on the umpires to interrupt the proceedings as the game was paused for a short period. Six fans were later ejected from the stadium as further investigations are underway.
"The crowd in Australia began to abuse me but it made me mentally strong. I did not let it affect my game and that was important," Siraj said after returning to his hometown in India.
"I told my captain Ajju bhai [Ajinkya Rahane] about the abuse and he spoke to the umpires who said you can leave the field. But Rahane said: 'We will play on.'"
Siraj was crucial to India's memorable victory as he managed 13 wickets including the first five-wicket haul of his career in Brisbane.
The 26-year-old received a hero's welcome back home as he headed straight to his father's grave, who passed away before the series began.
Siraj's father, an auto-rickshaw driver, died in November but his son could not attend the funeral and stayed with the team.
"First of all, it was very difficult for me. Mentally I was upset and depressed," he said.
"I had a chat with them back home and they said that I should complete Dad's dream [of playing for India]."
Shedding light on his personal struggles, Siraj shared how Virat Kohli, also the captain of his IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, motivated him to not lose sight of his ultimate goal of donning the national jersey.
"I had a bad season in 2018, but RCB backed me. Virat bhai has always backed me, saying 'You have the power and you can do it'," he stated.
"I will not let this performance go to my head. I cannot relax as there is the England series and the World Test Championship coming up."