Umran Malik: remember the name. You will hear more of him in the coming years. Right now, he’s got Indian cricket talking with his special skill: raw pace, genuine pace. That’s a rarity in India, where medium-pacers ply their trade in the fast lane. So when someone clocks over 150kph, the cricketing fraternity sits up and takes notice.
When Umran touched 151kph on the speed gun on his IPL debut on Sunday, we immediately knew the youngster from Jammu and Kashmir was an exceptional talent. At 21, if he can hurry the batsmen, imagine the havoc he could wreak with some training and proper guidance.
Is 150kph a magic figure? No, not really. There are several bowlers in India who can bowl at that pace. Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron are real quickies. West Indian pace great Andy Roberts is reported to have called Yadav India’s first genuine pace bowler. High praise, indeed.
Many youngsters these days bowl quick and get noticed. Kolkata Knight Riders’ Shivam Mavi is one, and his teammate Kamlesh Nagarkoti is another. Navdeep Saini spearheaded the Royal Challengers Bangalore attack last year, bowling consistently at speeds over 150kph.
So what’s the brouhaha over Malik’s talent. For one, he’s new. Then, he’s young. Most of all, his performance has been absolutely brilliant for a cricketer who has played just one T20 game and one List A game in the domestic circuit. Against RCB on Wednesday, Malik’s line and length were immaculate for a young tearaway. And he bowled the fastest delivery in IPL 2021 with one that read 153kph on the speed radar.
Why India loves fast bowlers
Malik’s foray into the Indian Premier League was rather fortunate. He came to the UAE as net bowler for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, where Abdul Samad of Jammu and Kashmir has been a permanent fixture this year. That means Abdul Samad would undoubtedly have something to do with Malik’s arrival in the SRH camp.
When T. Natarajan contracted COVID-19, Hyderabad were quick to sign Malik as a replacement. He sure must have impressed David Warner and Kane Williamson in the nets. Malik’s teammate Jason Holder concurred, saying that he’s been a handful and his control is very good.
Control, that’s the key. There are plenty of bowlers who bowl with fire but are erratic. Here’s where Malik scores. He makes the batsmen play, hustling them into mistakes. KKR’s Shubhman Gill would agree.
Why do we adore fast bowlers? India’s where top-class spinners are born and bred. That makes the pitches a graveyard for pace bowlers. However fast you bowl, the ball comes slowly off the pitch. So there’s no incentive to bowl fast.
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Kapil Dev changed all that. He’s the torch-bearer of Indian fast bowlers. Although he never bowled at express speed, his swing fetched wickets. His success spawned a fast-bowling trend. Today, India have one of the best pace packs in the world. For that, Kapil deserves a large share of the credit.
Despite all the success, India craves for a genuine pace bowler. A bowler who could take wickets with sheer speed: like Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson; like Andy Roberts and Mike Holding; like Bob Willis and John Snow. So when Malik had Glenn Maxwell on the hop, India would have rejoiced. Here’s an Australian so used to playing express pace caught napping by the sheer speed of a young Indian’s delivery.
Speed alone is not enough for success. But it helps. Malik has to have more variations and learn to move the ball around to catch the edges. More importantly, he should be able to out-think the batsmen. That will come with experience.
Right now, let’s applaud his talent. More power to his shoulder!