Umran Malik, who hails from Jammu, has emerged as the sensation of the Indian Premier League 2022.
Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Malik has snapped up 15 wickets so far in just nine matches, including a five-wicket haul against Gujarat Titans. But statistics in his case are just a footnote.
What has caught the fancy of everyone is his supersonic pace. The right-arm pacer has the rare knack of consistently bowling at over 150 kmph. In fact, 91% of his deliveries in the tournament so far have been over 140 kmph.
From cricket experts such as Sunil Gavaskar and Matthew Hayden to hoi polloi, everyone is gung-ho about this exciting young pacer.
In an exclusive interview with The New Indian, his father Abdul Rashid talks about his childhood, steely pace and his ambition to present India at an international stage. Here are the edited excerpts:
How was Umran as a child? When did you genuinely believe that he had in him to make it big in cricket?
Umran was always fervently fond of cricket right from when he was just a 4-year-old kid. He used to play a lot of cricket in the streets and later in school and local tournaments. Right from the word go, Umran had the ability to bowl fast. No one taught him to bowl fast; it came naturally to him.
People used to tell me that they saw my boy bowl in local matches and rave about his amazing pace. I always had confidence that he would do something spectacular.
Did you let him pursue cricket freely and supported him or were you worried about his academics?
Once I realised that he has a rare ability to bowl fast and his heart lies in cricket, we let him pursue his passion wholeheartedly. We gave him whatever equipment he wanted. His mother and two sisters also backed him to the hilt. Umran used to tell us that one day he would bring glory to the family and fulfil all our desires. I’m extremely proud of what he’s doing.
How difficult was it for him to practise during the COVID-19 lockdown? How did he keep himself fit and motivated?
Everything was closed during the lockdown. So he, along with some friends, obtained permission from the administration to practise on the college ground. Umran is an exceedingly diligent person. Come hell or high water, he never missed practice sessions.
What are your thoughts on his tremendous performance in the ongoing IPL?
Like any father, I’m ecstatic at how he’s been bowling in the tournament. His yorkers, in particular, are stinging and hugely effective. I’m also overwhelmed by the love and support he’s getting from all quarters. Now, he’s not just my son but the son of India. I want him to keep plugging away tirelessly and make his country proud at the international level.
Lastly, who are some of the cricketers he admired as a kid? Who are his favourite cricketers?
Umran really likes Jasprit Bumrah and always wanted to bowl yorkers like him. He also loves MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli as cricketers. He has been telling me one day he will break the record of Shoaib Akhtar and will unfurl the fastest delivery ever recorded in the history of cricket. I want the country to pray for him and keep supporting him.