There was a time in Indian cricket a year or so back when the fast-bowling cupboard seemed to overflow. While Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were leading the attack, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, and a few others were beginning to make waves. It seemed Indian cricket was heading for a glory phase as far as fast bowling was concerned. However, as we come to the end of 2022, things look quite different and less encouraging. Bumrah is on the injured list and has been joined by Krishna recently. Avesh has run out of favor for now, while left-armer Yash Dayal, who was picked for Bangladesh ODIs, has also been ruled out due to a lower back issue.
Amid all the doom and gloom, tearaway fast bowler Umran Malik is a ray of hope. The 23-year-old from Jammu and Kashmir made a comeback to the Indian team recently and was handed his one-day debut, along with another youngster, Arshdeep Singh, during the first match of the series at Eden Park in Auckland. He impressed many with his pace, which has been his USP in his short career. Although India lost the game quite poorly, Malik was the only one to make an impact with the ball, dismissing Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell, even though he proved a bit expensive towards the end. The early signs are encouraging, but Malik needs to be backed and given a decent run to learn and prove himself.
Don’t expect miracles
Although there is plenty of hype around Malik, especially concerning his pace, it is important for Indian cricket not to get carried away with him. Yes, he is a genuine talent and can go places. But that is not going to happen overnight. He needs to be given that space to work on his game and constantly be encouraged to improve. The young fast bowler has only played a handful of domestic games, apart from the Indian Premier League (IPL). As such, he is still relatively raw. Malik has all the basics in place to be successful. However, his future in the game will be determined by how hard he works to develop his natural skills and the kind of support he gets from the team management and selectors.
Workload management and maintaining fitness will be crucial areas for the rookie Jammu and Kashmir fast bowler. Despite the presence of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), a plethora of bowling coaches, and the BCCI medical staff, a number of Indian pacers have been struggling with fitness woes. They cannot afford Malik to walk down that path, at least at this stage of his career, when he is keen to make a mark.
Let him fly
Another key aspect the Indian selectors and team management must also ensure that they don’t force Malik to cut down on his pace. There will be days when he will go for a few runs; on others, he could be clobbered all around the park. It is on these occasions that the youngster will look around for reassurance. Malik has been effective so far in the IPL because he has just run in and bowled quickly. That is the basic definition of a tearaway fast bowler.
Team India have a number of pacers, who can bowl at 125-130, but Malik is the only one who can touch 150 kph frequently. In that sense, he is a rare talent in Indian cricket. However, he is still a rough diamond that must be polished before showing his true colors. But that can only happen if he bowls without any worry about his place in the side. As Team India looks to rebuild their castle, Malik must be given only one mandate – run in and bowl as quickly as you can!