New Delhi: Speedster Umran Malik caught everyone’s attention by clocking speeds upwards of 150 kmph in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 and 2022 for his side Sunrisers Hyderabad. It was in IPL 2022 though that Malik hit top form, picking 22 wickets from 14 matches at an average of 20.18 and an economy rate of 9.03.
After taking home the Emerging Player of the Tournament award, Malik made his T20I and ODI debut for India in the same year, impressing legends of the game with the chances he got. But in IPL 2023, Malik has played only seven matches, picking five wickets at an economy rate of 10.35 and is yet to play this month.
Malik’s conspicuous absence from the playing eleven raised further eyebrows through the words of Hyderabad skipper Aiden Markram after the toss against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday.
“Not too sure to be honest. Certainly, he’s a player with the X-factor, bowls at 150kph, but I don’t really know what’s behind the scenes but he has a lot of X-factor,” he said.
Now former India left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan expressed disappointment over how the franchise has handled a bright talent like Malik. “I think Umran Malik has not been handled well by the franchise with the way his services should have been utilised by SRH and that has been evident (in this season).”
“When you are talking about a young seamer, you are also looking at creating that environment and support (for him). That (kind of) guidance is required. Unfortunately, that was not seen from SRH and that is why he has had the season the way he had this year,” said Zaheer, an IPL expert for JioCinema, in a select virtual media interaction.
Zaheer, a member of India’s 2011 ODI World Cup winning squad, was happy with the way the Indian pacers Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj performed in the Power-play overs in IPL 2023. In the six-over phase, Shami is leading the wicket-taking charts with 15 scalps, followed by Siraj at nine wickets.
“It has been great and a treat to watch them operate (in Power-play of IPL 2023). They have kept things simple; that’s something which is required. I would say it is the right way of approaching the Power-play.”
“It is great to see bowlers (like Shami and Siraj) are setting that kind of example, simplifying things and not getting caught up in the format. That always works if you stick to good line and length and be brave in pitching the ball up and look to extract some swing,” he added.
Quizzed on whether speed or swing is essential for a fast bowler to succeed in T20s, Zaheer felt apart from those two components, holding the nerves under pressure and looking for cues to triumph over the batter is equally key.
“It’s important that you hold your nerves under pressure; that’s also equally important. You have the skillsets, which is why you have been picked and played at this level. It’s also important how you see the game, analyse the batter, and look to exploit their weaknesses. It’s also equally important for every bowler to take that step further and then use your things accordingly.”
“If you know the batter is not liking change-ups, then you go for those variations. If the batter is a predominantly backfoot player, you have to alter your length and go that much fuller and vice versa. That’s something which is very important and that makes you a good bowler. If you have the speed, swing, variations, then the options you take and how proactive you are on the field is something you should be focusing on.”
Zaheer, who also serves as the global head for cricket development at Mumbai Indians, opined the franchise has done well as a bowling unit despite missing their strike bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer.
“When you talk about Mumbai Indians and when you look at how the season has gone, it has not been an easy season (due to) with first losing (Jasprit) Bumrah and then losing Jofra Archer. It has been, bowling-wise, a tough season but batting has been very good – that is the way I see it.”
“On the whole, the season has been very good and the momentum, I would say, is there with them. You can talk about the result in the last match (five-run loss to Lucknow), but (even) in that (game) the way they batted on that surface, it was good.”
Zaheer signed off by saying veteran leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, who has picked 20 wickets in 13 matches, has brought his rich playing experience to the fore with some terrific performances to be a senior bowling figure in Bumrah’s absence.
“There is no doubt that Bumrah is a match-winner. See, I have been very vocal about the fact that there is inexperience in Mumbai Indians’ bowling line-up right now. Piyush Chawla has done exceptionally well and carried the responsibility of a senior bowler in the camp.
“But that weakness in their bowling was always there and Bumrah was the main reason for that and then Jofra also joined that list. If Bumrah was around, things would have been different from that point of view.”
“You have seen over the years in the IPL, the value which experience brings, someone who has been there and done that and can handle pressure well. In the spin department, there are a lot of young spinners around in the MI set-up. Chawla was a straightforward call because he can mentor those guys with his experience.”