Will the real Umran Malik please stand up? Considered the next big thing on the international circuit, India’s fastest bowler was surprisingly reduced to a sporadic role in the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). After Umran shot to fame by bowling the fastest delivery by an Indian pacer in the cash-rich league, the speedster was retained by SRH for INR 4 crore. The express pacer also received his maiden India cap in white-ball cricket during the 2022 season. Even though Umran was tipped to spearhead the pace attack of SRH in IPL 2023, the Jammu and Kashmir fast bowler only recorded eight appearances for the Hyderabad-based franchise.
“League’s fastest bowler sitting out baffles me. Umran Malik wasn’t handled well by his team,” how former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan reflected on Umran’s ouster from the SRH playing XI for their home game against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) earlier this month. While Irfan was vocal about SRH’s questionable snubbing of the speed merchant, legendary Indian opener Virender Sehwag on the contrary, dropped a bomb on the Hyderabad pacer with his fiery statement. The former India skipper castigated Umran for not learning anything from pace ace Dale Steyn at the SRH camp. So what’s happening with Umran at SRH? Does Umran really need to work on his line and length to bounce back next season?
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Speaking to Hindustan Times in an interview, former Indian cricketer Irfan answered the burning question and opined that a fast bowler of Umran’s calibre should never compromise his speed. “So first of all. Let’s take last year, he was the highest wicket-taker for SRH. Right? And he played for India after that as well. We talking about a guy who bowls 150-plus. And here we are stuck with line and length. If you’ll be bowling quick and you’re an asset to the national team, that thing comes automatically (line and length). So do you want someone to not bowl quick and concentrate on the line and length or do you want someone to just be quick? So with time, line and length comes automatically,” said Irfan, who is an expert with Star Sports, official TV broadcaster of IPL 2023.
‘Umran should never compromise on his speed’
“I don’t think we should be worried about the line and length of someone who bowls quick. Yes, you want that. Yes, it should be in your armoury for sure. You should have something in your armoury to surprise the batter apart from the extra pace. For Umran, adjusting his line and length – It’s not the right way for him. He should never compromise on his speed. He should keep bowling fast. Line and length will come, there are a couple of things I have in mind. that I will discuss with him in person,” the ex-India cricketer continued.
When SRH squared off against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Hyderabad captain Aiden Markram clearly indicated that he has no mandate in the selection process. Markram was clueless when he was asked to reveal why Umran is being overlooked by the SRH think-tank at IPL 2023. With an economy of 10.85, Umran only picked up 5 wickets in 8 matches for SRH this season. Not only Umran, but 2016 winners SRH also recorded a forgetful season by bagging a wooden spoon in the IPL 2023.
“My advice to Umran is always personal. So it’s always been shared. It’s always been spoken to. He has been handled well by NCA as well. There are always conversations between me, the coaches and Umran as well. We have already made a plan about how to move forward with it. But yes, he should have been backed more. They should have been given a longer run. I give you a simple example, Tushar Deshpande. Similar economy, but he is getting games and is taking wickets – look at where he is right now. It’s not about the franchise, it’s about the selectors selecting the playing XI,” added Irfan, who played 103 matches in the IPL.
‘Rinku has been such a big revelation this season’
Acknowledging the rapid rise of Rinku Singh, former India cricketer Pathan also reserved ultimate praise for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) batter. The 25-year-old emerged as the knight in shining armour for the Eden Garden stalwarts at IPL 2023. Rinku was KKR’s leading run-getter (474) in a topsy-turvy season. When asked to pick the standout uncapped player of this season’s IPL, Pathan reserved high praise for Rinku and the ex-India all-rounder also gave Rajasthan Royals (RR) opener Yashasvi Jaiswal a special mention.
“It’s a big competition between Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rinku Singh. But I’ll go with Rinku Singh. Look, I’m really impressed with Yashasvi. Last year he was getting out to spinners and this year, he has smoked them. His strike rate has been outstanding as well. He has actually given a breather to Jos Buttler quite a few times. But Rinku has been such a big revelation this season. He is so calm under pressure and he has done it again and again this season for KKR. That one inning against Gujarat Titans (GT), against all odds that he won the game. Last over, hitting 5 sixes. It’s a magical moment. It doesn’t happen. We had not seen that kind of moment in the last 15 years. We have seen quite a few matchwinners – Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Yusuf Pathan, Ab de Villiers and MS Dhoni. These are the pure matchwinners. But who has done what Rinku did this season? No one. None of them. Rinku has created something that will last long in fans’ minds throughout their lives. So not choosing Rinku will be very unfair. So I’ll choose Rinku,” Irfan concluded.