While the IPL is always known for the big hits that produce a lot of joy for batters and fans, IPL 2022 has seen Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Umran Malik grow leaps and bounds as a bowler.
Umran, who himself has said that he wants to terrorise batters with his pace, has been bowling in the range of 150 kmph consistently, causing lots of problems for opposition teams. Just ask the likes of Hardik Pandya and Wriddhiman Saha, a couple of players who dealt with him in his latest game.
Against the Gujarat Titans, Umran picked his first five-wicket haul, and even though it went in vain as Gujarat clinched a thrilling win, the Dale Steyn-mentored bowler has left experts and fans impressed with his talent.
Former India head coach Ravi Shastri has urged the national selectors to keep a close eye on Umran, saying that he expects the youngster to trouble batters a fair bit if handled well. Shastri stated, "He is consistent and I like his attitude. This kid can only learn. This guy has got genuine pace, if he hits the right areas, he is going to trouble a lot of batters." He further added, "It's about handling him properly. You have got to give him the right messages. The way you communicate with him will be very important."
One of SRH’s coaches, and a legend of the game, Brian Lara also had words of praise for Umran.
"Umran Malik reminds me a lot about Fidel Edwards when he first started, a lot of pace and I hope that he understands it as he goes into international cricket, which I think he'll eventually play.
"In the IPL, a lot of batsmen get accustomed to playing sheer pace, so I hope that he adds a little bit more to his armoury later on. He's a quick learner in the nets, he's willing to learn and it's just awesome to see India has a pacer of that calibre, it's just tremendous," said Lara.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar too has had his say about the young pacer and hopes he is taken to England for the Test in Manchester.
"The next for him, I think is the Indian team," Gavaskar said during his commentary after the game.
"He might not play in the XI because India have got Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Umesh Yadav. So, he might not play. But just travelling with the group, travelling with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, sharing the dressing room with them... just look what is going to happen to him!"
This is not the first time Sunil Gavaskar has praised Umran highly, and has repeated a few times that the youngster will play for India soon.
"Umran Malik has been very, very impressive with his speed but more than his speed, it's his accuracy (that's impressed). A lot of guys who bowl at that speed tend to spray the ball around but Umran bowls very few wide deliveries," Gavaskar had said on Cricket Live on Star Sports.
"If he can control the wides down the leg side, he will be a tremendous bowler because that will mean he'll be attacking the stumps all the time, and with his pace, it's not easy to hit straight. If he bowls wicket-to-wicket, he is pretty much going to become an unplayable bowler. He's going to play for India."
New Zealand great Daniel Vettori, while speaking to ESPNCricinfo, said that Umran’s ability to bowl at high pace consistently makes him a rare talent.
"That pace generates anxiety among batters and not just tailenders, it's all batters," Vettori said. "We don't often see bowlers get around the 153-154 mark. That's exceptional pace, that's a rarity that we haven't seen I suppose consistently since the likes of [Brett] Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, or Shaun Tait. So to see that is a huge part of the game now. You can see the excitement factor, brings a bit of X-factor."
Vettori added that India must manage him well to help realise his potential to the fullest.
"Potentially. It might be the best thing for him coming under the umbrella of the BCCI or the NCA, and they can manage his workloads, because there is a temptation for a player of his pace to keep bowling. I am reflecting on my conversation with Shane Bond and the fact that he thought the more you bowled, the slower you got. In the subcontinent, you are used as a net bowler, you are going on tours and things like that. So the workload could get a bit much. This is a gem here and it's just how it's looked after in the next couple of years for Indian cricket and how to get the best out of him."
However, former India bowler RP Singh isn't in favor of taking Umran along to the upcoming 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, saying it might be a bit early for the youngster.
"Umran Malik is surely an exciting talent. He should be kept with the team because then you can groom him while keeping the strength of your bench. You never know who will you need when. But playing him right away? I am not in favour of that because he hasn't played much domestic and even in IPL, he has only just started to do well," he said on Cricbuzz.
"His economy rate was very poor but in the last 2-3 matches he has pulled it back to around eight. He is on the stepping stones of improvement, if he stays with the team, bowls to world-class bowlers in the nets, he'll get that fine-tuning done. You can keep him in the team for the future but it's perhaps a bit too early to play him."
The young pacer has had many former players impressed, including Dale Steyn who has been seen celebrating the dismissals in the dugout with great gusto.
Former India captains Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have also spoken highly of the youngster, according to Umran's father.
"Umran discussed some of those things with me. MS Dhoni is a legend of the game. Virat Kohli is also a great cricketer. Umran met both of them. They have told Umran that he is the future of Indian cricket. When Umran called me to share this with me, he was extremely happy. He was elated after listening to those golden words from the two legends of the game," Umran's father Rashid was quoted as saying by Times of India.
After RCB's game against SRH last year, Kohli had been asked about Umran and he said that it was good to see him bowl at such high pace.
“This tournament throws up talent every year, good to see a guy bowling at 150 clicks. It is important to understand the progress of individuals from here on,” Kohli said in the post-match presentation after his team lost the game by four runs.
“The pool of fast bowlers being strong is always a good sign for Indian cricket and whenever you see talent like this, you are going to have your eyes on them and make sure you maximise their potential which is already being seen at the IPL level,” he added.
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