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Umran Malik

Umran Malik: The pace sensation whose IPL heroics earned him an India call-up

Feature

By Karan Sen

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The speedster has made waves in the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League and has been richly rewarded with an India call-up. Here we take a look at why he has been selected to represent the Men in Blue.

One name that has been on everyone's lips during the ongoing edition of the IPL is that of Umran Malik. In a topsy-turvy season for Sunrisers Hyderabad, the pacer has been a consistent presence throughout, knocking stumps off with his sheer pace. Under the tutelage of bowling coach and South Africa legend Dale Steyn, he has also added discipline to his bowling. Combined with the ability to consistently clock speeds over 150 kmph, Umran has become a prospect too good to ignore.

Now called up to the Indian squad for the five-match T20I series at home against South Africa, the Indian team management will hope to mould Umran into a strike bowler ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Australia, later this year. 

Here, we chart his rapid ascension from a raw prospect in the IPL to earning a selection in the Indian squad. 

Injury replacement in IPL 2021

Born in Jammu & Kashmir in 1999, Umran Malik's first taste of the big league was during the 2021 season of the IPL. On the recommendation of fellow statesman Abdul Samad, Malik was roped in as a net bowler, where he impressed one and all with his sheer pace. 

An injury to a senior pacer would see him get a breakthrough in the big time. T Natarajan was ruled out of the second leg of the IPL with COVID-19 and Malik was drafted in as his short-term replacement. 

The pacer would play three matches in a horrendous year for Sunrisers Hyderabad, where they finished at the bottom of the pile. Malik scalped 2 wickets in those matches, but the talent there was for all to see. This was also recognised by the Indian team management as he was asked to stay back in the UAE as a net bowler for the India team during the 2021 T20 World Cup.

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Retention and setting the league on fire 

Such was the impression made by the pacer that he was one of Sunrisers Hyderabad's three retentions for the 2022 season of the IPL – the others being Kane Williamson and Abdul Samad.

If there were any doubts surrounding a perceived gamble by the franchise, they were quickly dispelled by his sizzling performances. After a slow start, Umran improved by leaps and bounds in every single game. There was also a tactical shift by Williamson in his use of the pacer, primarily utilizing him in the middle overs to put the batters on the backfoot.

Some of his highlights from the season include a triple-wicket maiden against Punjab Kings, a five-wicket haul against Gujarat Titans and bowling a 157 kmph delivery against Delhi Capitals.

Malik has consistently been the quickest bowler in the IPL along with Lockie Ferguson who plies his trade for Gujarat Lions. 

All in all, Malik has scalped 21 wickets in 13 matches, going at an economy of 8.75 and averaging 22.43 with best figures of 5/25. 

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The road ahead

Despite his promise, Umran will face some heavy competition to be a regular fixture in the Indian team considering the battery of pacers at their disposal. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh are the other pacers in the squad for the South Africa series, while the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami have been rested. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur are also likely to be in the scheme of things due to their ability to contribute with the bat.

But skipper Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid will know the value of having searing unadulterated pace in the lineup and will hope to mould him into a pacer who can potentially win India a number of games heading into the T20 World Cup on the bouncy tracks of Australia.

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