India vs SA: Why Umran Malik Must Be In India’s Playing XI

| Updated: 17 June, 2022 12:14 pm IST
Umran Malik emerged as the fourth highest wicket-taker in IPL, 2022.

“Last time I got really excited seeing an Indian player was Sachin Tendulkar. And after that I am excited to see Umran Malik,” says legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar. Coming from a player who took apart the West Indies pace quartet in his pomp, the praise is even more glowing.

However, the 22-year-old bowler hasn’t found a place in India’s playing XI for the first three T20 matches of the series against South Africa. Drafted into the squad on the back of his sensational show in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, Umran has been left out of the playing XI for Avesh Khan.

Avesh, though a fine prospect, has failed to come good and leave a mark in the three matches. The 25-year-old hasn’t picked up a single wicket despite bowling 11 overs. Also, he has not looked menacing or effective and hasn’t troubled opposition batsmen at all. His bowling at present lacks zip and punch. In fact, his inability to snaffle scalps was one of the reasons behind India’s defeat in the first two T20Is.

While Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling splendidly well by making the new ball nip around and picking up crucial wickets, he hasn’t been ably supported by his new-ball partner Avesh. To be fair, in the first three matches, only Bhuvneshwar and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal bowled with rhythm and looked like taking wickets. Other bowlers were rather listless.

The series is at a critical juncture. After losing the first two T20Is, the hosts bounced back at Visakhapatnam and clinched a 48-run win. But they have to win the next matches as well to seal the series. Relying on only two bowlers to grab wickets makes winning the series an uphill task.

That is why it is paramount for India to induct Umran into the playing XI. The youngster has exhibited that he has the supersonic pace and subterfuge to unsettle and outfox batsmen. During the IPL 2022, playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad, he evinced that he has the knack of not only bowling consistently at over 150 kph but also hurling deadly yorkers.

In the cash-rich tournament, Malik emerged as the fourth highest wicket-taker as he chalked up 22 scalps, including a five-wicket haul against Gujarat Titans, in just 14 matches. More than 90 per cent of his deliveries were over 140 kmph, but more than just pace he also demonstrated that he’s a veritable wicket-taker.

The pacer is currently bubbling with self-belief and confidence after his phenomenal performance in the IPL. He also seems exceedingly gung-ho to play for India and excel at the international level. After the IPL, he fervently expressed the desire to break the record of fastest ball which at present belongs to former Pakistani pacer Shoaib Akhtar. Akhtar had unfurled the fastest ball, which was measured at 161.3 kmph, during the World Cup 2003 in a match against England.

India are currently trying out a number of players to find the best mix for the World T20 which will take place later this year. The time is ripe for Umran to explode on to the international scene and mesmerise the viewers across the world. If he manages to hit his stride, India will unearth another gem of a pacer after Jasprit Bumrah. Who wouldn’t want to see them bowling in tandem and tormenting the batters? Fewer things in cricket are as exciting and richly rewarding as pace.

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