For a nation where batters rule thanks to the harsh conditions for bowlers, express pace bowlers that can consistently clock above 150kph have still been elusive for India up until now. 

Regardless of who wins the Indian T20 League 2021, Hyderabad’s express speedster Umran Malik will stand out as one of the finds of the season. 

Hailing from Jammu & Kashmir, Umran Malik has already etched his name into the annals of Indian cricket as the country’s fastest-ever bowler after bowling a delivery at 152.95kph. In fact, in the list of the fastest deliveries bowled in the Indian T20 League 2021, Umran Malik appears four times in the top six.

His searing pace hasn’t gone unnoticed either with the Indian selectors naming him as a net bowler for India’s T20 World Cup 2021 campaign. As the dust continues to settle from his breathtaking breakthrough season, SportsAdda caught up with Umran Malik for an exclusive chat with India’s latest pace sensation. Here are the excerpts.

Q. Tell us something about your background and journey so far?

Umran: I come from a normal family from Gujjar Nagar in Jammu and I played tennis ball cricket between 2014 and 2018. Later I was advised to go for the Under-19 trials in 2018 but I was told that I wasn’t eligible for the trials since I never played in district matches. I still bowled a few balls since people didn’t know about me. Surinder Singh Bagal sir, who was present there, took me into the team acknowledging that I was the fastest bowler in the trials. So after Under-19 trials, I played a match in Under-23 and later in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy where I performed very well. However, I couldn’t do the same in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as I conceded more runs. I was sad about it but I kept my focus and didn’t let that affect me much. Then I became a net bowler for the Hyderabad franchise in the Indian T20 League where I was guided by the coaching staff and now I’m proud to be a net bowler for India in the T20 World Cup. I am very thankful for the opportunity.

Q. How did cricket happen to you? Any sports history in the family? Was there any early struggle?

Umran: I loved playing cricket ever since I was a kid. There’s no one with a cricket background in my family. While my family did question me a lot about going to games and told me there’s no future in cricket, there was never a situation where they didn’t support me or told me to stop playing the game. I wouldn’t be here without their support. 

Q. How did the coaches in the Hyderabad franchise guide you?

Umran: They initially pointed out the mistakes I was making. I also would discuss the same with them and make improvements. Later, I was given some good tips by people like VVS Laxman sir, Tom Moody sir, Muttiah Muralitharan sir and Trevor Bayliss Sir.

Q. What is the secret behind bowling consistently at 153kph? Can you bowl faster? 

Umran: I never really focussed much on my fitness. So I believe by increasing my fitness levels, I can definitely bowl faster. I haven’t done much besides my own workout and I always bowled at this pace. I never really checked but I knew that I can bowl at 145kph and ever since I found out that I was bowling 150+, I can only thank God.

Q. What is your stock delivery? Are you working on any particular delivery?

Umran: I’m very confident when it comes to bouncers. I’m sure that nobody can hit my bouncers. Besides that, I’m working on my yorkers.

Q. It is said that you have troubled David Warner in the nets. Is it true?

Umran: Yes, it happened when I bowled to him for the first time. I didn’t let him touch the first four-five deliveries and did not let him settle. Later everything was fine between us. 

Q. Did you have any role models growing up?

Umran: After watching Jasprit Bumrah bowl his yorker, I was obsessed with bowling a yorker. So, when I played tennis ball cricket, I kept bowling yorkers since Bumrah always bowled a good length. He became a role model as I aspire to bowl like him.

Q. You have spent the last two years with the Hyderabad team. How has been the experience at the franchise?

Umran: I have learned many things. VVS Laxman sir kept pointing out the areas where I was making mistakes. The first mistake was the jump out in my bowling. I started the jump far from the wicket and it was Irfan Pathan sir who corrected my jump when he coached us back in Jammu & Kashmir. He gave me tips on wrist action and other things as well. So, I learnt about the areas that should be bowled and the areas that should be avoided going against top-class batsmen like Kane Williamson, David Warner, Manish Pandey, and Abdul Samad. So, I gained a lot of experience as I kept bowling to them.

Q. What is your diet and training schedule?

Umran: During training, I would always bowl around eight to nine overs to Abdul Samad back in Jammu. And when it comes to diet, I had a meat-heavy diet, especially the seekh kababs from my area.

Q. When you are bowling, what is your approach?

Umran: My initial approach was to bowl in good areas and during T20s, I don’t prioritise going for a wicket. Instead, I try to restrict runs.

Q. When you are hit for a six, what comes to your mind?

Umran: I try to rectify my mistake. Like, when Ishan Kishan hit my slow bowl for a six in a recent match, I realised that the ball went too far. So, I made a mistake there. I should have bowled a bit faster.

Author: Sandilya Garimella 

Featured photo: IPL / Website