It has been a mercurial rise for Jammu and Kashmir pacer Umran Malik since October this year. The 21-year-old youngster, who made heads turn for clocking speeds in excess of 150kph in the IPL 2021 for his team Sunrisers Hyderabad, was rewarded with a stint as a net bowler with the Indian team in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup. Malik's impressive run has now extended into a call-up to the India 'A' team for the four-day series against South Africa 'A'.
The quick rise in Malik's fortunes has left his father Abdul Rashid delighted. "He used to say to me, 'Papa, I want to play for India'. Our wishes have always been with him. We pray to God that our child plays for India one day. Now that his name has come into India 'A' squad, I hope in the future his name comes into the India squad and makes the nation proud. We tell everyone 'He is not our child; he is the child of the nation'. Our only wish now is to see him play well and bring glory to the country," said Rashid to IANS in a chat over the phone on Friday.
"We are really happy. The whole of Jammu and Kashmir and India is happy for this kid. The whole country has been praising him. We have been extremely delighted along with the whole nation as he has bowled very well," added Rashid.
From being a net bowler for the Hyderabad franchise in the IPL, Malik was drafted into the main squad as left-arm pacer T Natarajan tested positive for Covid-19. As he showcased his raw pace in the IPL, he quickly caught the eye of many fans and cricketers, including Indian skipper Virat Kohli.
Rashid attributes his son's pace to God-gifted energy and endurance, which is seen in Malik registering his name in the top ten fastest deliveries of IPL 2021, with the highest being 152.95 kph (at second place). "He has got natural strength and did not learn from anywhere. He used to go and practise in the cricket academy as well as in the college. God has given him the strength to bowl well. He has played really well till now."
"He has lots of stamina and used to play cricket for the whole day. He used to leave at 10 am in the morning and come back at 7 pm. He would only take 3-4 bottles of water with him while leaving for practice. It used to be so much hot in the summers and still, he would go for the practice. He used to say, 'Papa I have to go for practice'."
Malik hails from a modest family in Gujjar Nagar, Jammu. Rashid, who works as a fruit seller in Shaheedi Chowk, says his family was always supportive of their son's cricketing ambitions. "He was three-four years old when he got interested in cricket. We never stopped him from playing cricket. Whatever he needed to play the game, we provided him with the best of whatever we had. He was never made to feel like that mummy-papa do not allow me to play or not bring anything for me. Whatever we could do for him, did it."
Such was Malik's zeal for cricket that his family had to make him eat food on time. "He used to go and play cricket after studies for the day. His dedication to cricket was such that he did not care to have his food on time and we had to get him to have his food. After having his food, he again used to go and play cricket. From a very early age, he had an interest in the game," says Rashid.
Malik's rise since IPL 2021 has led to an outpouring of congratulatory messages for Rashid at work. "People are very happy. Many of them stop their cars and gave congratulatory wishes. Everyone in Jammu is very happy."
Rashid signed off by saying, "Duyaein karna bachche ke liye. Hamari yahi duaa hain ki bacha acha khele, apne desh ka naam roshan kare. Hamari yahi duaa hai uske saath ki yeh India khele. (Please pray for the child. Our wish is that he plays well and brings glory to the country. Our wishes are with him to play for India)."