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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

IPL 2022: Stumps flying, batsmen ducking, 150 kph Umran Malik announces arrival

By the end of his spell of 4-0-25-5 on Wednesday night, Malik had Wankhede Stadium on its feet, the ovation accompanied by chants of “Umran, Umran” and “Malik, Malik”.

Written by Abhishek Purohit | Mumbai |
Updated: April 28, 2022 4:59:26 pm
Umran MalikUmran Malik of the Sunrisers Hyderabad celebrates the wicket of David Miller of Gujarat Titans. (IPL | PTI)

Before their match against Gujarat Titans, Sunrisers Hyderabad posted a video on their social media account of Umran Malik talking about his IPL season. The soft-spoken 22-year-old fast bowler from Jammu and Kashmir admitted that he had been off radar at the start, but had begun to do well in the last few matches. He just wanted to keep extending his dream run, game by game.

By the end of his spell of 4-0-25-5 on Wednesday night, Malik had Wankhede Stadium on its feet, the ovation accompanied by chants of “Umran, Umran” and “Malik, Malik”.

And no, the spectators didn’t need the DJ to egg them on. They had been awed by the sheer speed of Malik shattering one set of stumps after the other. Four of his five victims were bowled, the fifth — Gujarat Titans captain Hardik Pandya, no less — was too late on a bouncer.

As the fans exited the stadium, buzzing excitedly about the Srinagar-born son of a fruit-seller for whom 150 kph-plus deliveries are no longer a novelty, there was talk among pundits to fast-track him into the Indian team.

Sunil Gavaskar said Malik should be on the England tour later this month for the one-off Test. The hard-to-please former England batsman Kevin Pietersen was smiling and shaking his head. “I am going to be calling that India-England Test match, he better be playing that game,” he said.

But while the world got all excited, the player himself seemed unfazed, almost undermining his rare talent. At the post-match award ceremony, he was asked if he could clock 155 kph. “Uparwala dalva-de toh daal denge, Inshallah (I can if the Almighty wills it),” he said.

Speed and accuracy have been standout aspects of Malik’s bowling this IPL, the batsmen getting done in by sheer, raw, unplayable pace. And his rise in the game has been as quick — just five years ago, he was yet to play cricket with the leather ball.

Mentored earlier by former India player Irfan Pathan and currently based in Jammu, Malik entered the IPL system as a net bowler at Sunrisers and was drafted in as a Covid replacement for T Natarajan last year. He impressed so much that he was called up to bowl in the Indian team nets ahead of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Thereafter, he was included in the India ‘A’ squad for the tour of South Africa.

This year, Malik appears to have added control to his searing pace. And, the impact has been staggering. Batsmen used to facing the ubiquitous T20 variations in the form of slower balls and knuckle balls and cutters are having a hard time just protecting their stumps. Four of his five victims at the Wankhede were international batsmen — Wriddhiman Saha, Shubman Gill, Pandya and David Miller.

In the IPL particularly, Jasprit Bumrah is known for his stinging yorkers, England’s Jofra Archer for his awkward bouncers. With Malik, the crowds have come to expect the sight of stumps flying every time he runs in, with the rising buzz during his run-up quite like what accompanied two of the fastest of them all — Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.

The ball that dislodged Saha for 68 was clocked at 152.8 kph. Then there was the screaming lifter that pinged Pandya on the right shoulder past his fending bat, and made him walk all the way to the edge of the circle at square-leg in pain.

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This is only Malik’s first proper season on the big stage. And if this is what a rough diamond can produce, the polished product promises to be a nightmare for batsmen around the world.

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