Who is Umran Malik? Meet India's fastest bowler who plays for IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)
"It's great to see someone run in and bowl 150kmph an hour. Very often we try and create guys to make them more aware like change your pace, do this and that. But I think Umran is out and out raw. It's great to just let him loose and do what he does, which is great because you don't want to change people and block him off too much," said former South African cricketer Dale Steyn about Umran Malik. Steyn is serving as the bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the ongoing IPL 2022.
He added, "To watch him bowl at 150 clicks an hour consistently is super exciting, not just for me but for everyone watching the game at home or in the stadium. It's not great to face but it's super exciting."
By now, you might be wondering who is Umran Malik who has caught the attention of one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time.
Who is Umran Malik?
Umran Malik is a 22-year-old right-arm fast bowler who hails from Jammu and Kashmir. His father, Abdul Rashid, is a fruit seller while his mother is a homemaker.
During his childhood days, Umran played tennis-ball matches that won him cash prizes. He never received proper cricket training. "After playing in school during the day, he would leave the bag at home and go to play cricket in the evening as well," said Umran's father Abdul Rashid.
He added, "I used to tell him, 'Play cricket but pay some attention to studies as well.' I never refused to buy equipment or other things for him."
He was passionate to become a cricketer but hadn't played with a cricket ball until he was 17. He, however, stunned the U-19 selectors with his pace during a practice session.
The selectors, upon seeing Umran bowling in nets on cement wickets, asked, "Who are you? You are bowling so fast! Why are you not playing matches?"
They then approached a J&K U-19 coach and advised him to give Malik a chance. "I used to bowl fast from the very beginning. I had a natural action. I didn't copy it from anyone," said Umran Malik. He was inducted into the J&K U-19 squad at the age of 18.
Due to his growing popularity in tennis cricket, his friends suggested he give try leather-ball cricket and receive training to improve his skills. There comes into play the role of Randhir Singh Manhas who trains young cricketers. Recalling his first meet with Umran, Manhas said, "I remember it was the morning session, and as usual, I didn't have many bowlers. When he came to me, I said, Okay, you can bowl."
After Umran bowled a couple of balls, senior J&K cricketer, Ram Dayal, walked in and stopped at the nets. He watched Umran bowling for a while and asked about him.
The raw talent of Umran needed some polishing, and Manhas asked him to come to the stadium daily. Manhas worked on Malik's jump and landing. Former Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan too mentored Umran when he was J&K's mentor.
While Malik gained a lot of spotlight for his pace, he was taken aback when he went for J&K U-19 trails. He was told that he hasn't played at the district level and thus does not qualify to appear in the trials. However, he showed up again the next day and started bowling. One of the selectors then went to him and assured his place in the team.
Umran Malik played his T20 debut for J&K in the 2020-21 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy on January 18, 2021. His List A debut was also for Jammu and Kashmir in the 2020-21 Vijay Hazare Trophy on February 27, 2021.
In April 2021, he was selected as one of the three net bowlers for IPL 2021. Malik made his IPL debut on 3 October 2021 with Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). He came into the limelight when he bowled five balls in a row at a speed of over 150 kmph.
Former Indian skipper Virat Kohli was impressed by his performance and said, "Whenever you see talent like this, you are going to have your eyes on them and make sure you maximise their potential."
In September 2021, he served as the replacement for Sunrisers Hyderabad's T. Natarajan who couldn't play the cash-rich league that year due to COVID-19.
Due to his fast bowling, he was selected as a net bowler for team India for the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup. On 23 November 2021, he made his first-class debut for India A against South Africa A.
For the ongoing IPL 2022 season, he was retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad at a price of Rs. 4 crore. He clocked 153 kmph against Gujarat Titans at the D.Y Patil Stadium on April 11, setting social media abuzz. In the last IPL season, he bowled at a speed of 153.1 kmph, the fastest delivery in the history of IPL.
While the pace is his major weapon, he is focussing on delivering yorker and improving other skills. If he continues to impress selectors, his Instagram bio, which reads: "India soon", could become a reality any day now!