His ability to conjure raw pace made many say that he needs to be fast-tracked into the Indian senior team. Others however were sceptical about rushing this process.
Former India wicket-keeper batter and National selector Saba Karim was a guest on Times of India’s sports podcast Sportscast some time back and had advocated for Umran to be fast-tracked into the Indian senior team.
“Umran Malik has that rare quality of pace. You can add more variety, more control, more discipline to his bowling – which will happen – one has never seen this kind of speed ever in the Indian set-up. If we have someone like him, what are we waiting for? If you ask me I would get him in the Test squad. Just play him, because he has had 2-3 years of experience in First Class cricket plus IPL, which means that he is not raw,” Saba Karim had said on TOI Sportscast.
Umran Malik. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
The current selectors seemed to agree with that and Umran, who was also an India net bowler for the 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, was given his debut cap on the two T20I tour of Ireland, less than a month after IPL 2022 wrapped up.
Let’s take a quick look at Umran’s IPL figures from the 2022 season and then compare them with what he has done for India so far in the 3 T20Is he has played in the India blue so far.
In IPL 2022, Umran played all 14 matches for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who retained him pre-auction at Rs 4 Crore. In what was his second IPL season, the tearaway fast bowler took 22 wickets at an average of 20.18. HIs economy rate was on the higher side – 9.03 – and he had best figures of 5-25. He had one 4 wicket haul and one 5 wicket haul in the last season of the IPL.
Cut to his exploits with the Indian team and Umran has been a far cry from his IPL persona. He made his international debut in the 2 T20I series vs Ireland in June. In the first game he bowled only one over and gave away 14 runs, without taking a wicket. In the second match, stand-in captain Hardik Pandya gave Umran his full quota of 4 overs and the 22 year old pacer returned figures of 1-42. He was hit for 4 fours and 2 sixes and also bowled 3 wides.
His third outing in the India blue jersey was the third T20I vs England in Nottingham, which the hosts won by 17 runs. In this game Umran again bowled his full quota of 4 overs and gave away as many as 56 runs and took 1 wicket. His economy rate read 14. He was hit for 6 fours and 3 sixes and bowled 3 wides.
Umran Malik. (PTI Photo)
Earlier this year, former India cricket captain Anjum Chopra was a guest on Times of India’s sports podcast Sportscast and spoke about how playing in the IPL is very different to playing for India at the international level and that Umran should be allowed to fully hone his skills before being handed an India debut.
“Wearing an orange and black jersey is different to wearing an India blue jersey, completely different. The setting is completely different. Give the player ample time to realise his talent. Let him travel (with the India team), but to say that he is the future of Indian cricket – yes he is a future – but let’s not put all the eggs in the same basket. Let the player grow properly so that he is able to sustain himself when he is actually at the next level,” Anjum had said on TOI Sportscast.
There’s no doubt that Umran is a very special talent. Bowling at the kind of speeds he generates is something that is a sheer natural talent and cannot be taught. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by former India cricketer Aakash Chopra on his YouTube channel recently as well.
“Umran Malik has something that others don’t have – extreme pace. You can’t teach that to anyone. You can teach everything else – line and length, yorker, bouncer, slower ones. But you can’t teach someone how to bowl with speed. You are either born a pacer or born a medium-pacer…No doubt, he has the pace. But what I feel is that Umran Malik is not ready for international cricket as of now. It is very simple, he needs time. He hasn’t played a lot of cricket and so he is still raw,” Aakash Chopra said on his YouTube channel.
At 22 Umran has age on his side. Thankfully he is not a late find. Thanks to the Sunrisers Hyderabad who spotted and recognised his rare talent when he was still a net bowler for them and the platform that the IPL provides everyone is well aware of the rare talent he has.
In a match vs Delhi Capitals Umran clocked 157kmph in IPL 2022.
Another school of thought is that Umran should be tried out in Test cricket and not pushed as a T20I bowler right now.
However, going by what we have seen so far from the pace sensation the Indian team management and selectors will no doubt be aware that giving him the time and space to grow as a cricketer before unleashing him full time as an India player might be the most prudent way forward. It will be crucial of course to keep a very close watch on Umran’s progress and to make sure that he is not lost in the multitude of young fast bowlers coming up through the ranks.