Umran Malik has impressed the cricket fraternity with his searing pace in this edition of the Indian Premier League.
The 21-year-old from Jammu made heads turn on Thursday, clocking 157 kmph – the fastest delivery of the tournament – against Delhi Capitals on Thursday. He has clocked 150kmph consistently.
Former India international Harbhajan Singh believes that Umran should be drafted into the Indian team ahead of the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in Australia in October-November, 2022.
“He (Umran Malik) is my favourite. I want to see him in the Indian team because of what a bowler he is. Tell me any one bowler who bowls more than 150 (kmph) and isn’t playing for the country. So I think, it is a great great thing and he will inspire many youngsters to take up this game, where he has come from and what he is doing in the IPL, he is unbelievable,” Harbhajan said at the launch event of Dream Set Go, also attended by V. V. S. Laxman.
“I don’t know whether he will be selected or not but if I were a part of the selection committee, I would have given a go ahead. Umran Malik should be the partner with Jasprit Bumrah when India plays in Australia…” Harbhajan said.
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In the past, several former India cricketers – including Irfan Pathan and Dale Steyn – have stated that while Umran should be fast-tracked into the team, he needs to be protected well, keeping his age in mind.
But Harbhajan feels that age should not be a factor in selection. “When Sachin played for India, he was very young. Of course, he was Sachin Tendulkar, but that’s okay, aise hi player bante hai (this is how players are made). When I played my first Test match, I was 17 and half, but if you keep on thinking that he is a kid, then time will run out. When he is bowling at his best, he should be playing. Someone batting at his best should be there. Forget what his age is, when someone is performing well and is fit enough, they should walk in,” Harbhajan said about the 22-year-old speedster.
Talking about the challenges that Umran might face at the highest level, Harbhajan said: “There is more pressure in international cricket, there is no doubt about it, but I think he (Umran) has played enough IPL games against lot of the top players of the world playing in this competition and he has taken their wickets and some of the Indian batters he is bowling to are also brilliant players…
Speed merchant: Umran Malik has been clocking 150kmph consistently in the IPL this year. – IPL
“Pressure will be there, whether you play against Bangladesh or Netherlands or Australia or England. Any game you play for India, there will be added pressure and that’s what makes you a cricketer what you want to be. I am sure he will also learn, he is a great promising cricketer…”
While Umran has emerged as the talking point of the tournament, the IPL hasn’t been quite as memorable for Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. But Harbhajan wasn’t willing to dwell on the rough phase.
“They are champion players – Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. I am hopeful that they will get back to form, much before the T20 World Cup. This (lean patch) is a part and parcel of the game, everyone goes through this and I am sure they will come out of it and they will become ever stronger and better players out of this (phase),” Harbhajan said.
‘Bring back Kuldeep, Chahal’
In this edition of IPL, spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have made their presence felt. And, Harbhajan believes that they should be around in Australia.
“I certainly believe that you have to bring ‘Kulcha’ back, Kuldeep and Yuzvendra, I think they have been brilliant for team India. When they played together, they took wickets in the middle overs, whether it was T20s, ODIs or any format, they played together, they were very successful,” he said.
“I don’t know why they (selectors) break that partnership which was going well for India. It will be great to see them bowling in Australia, where the grounds are big and they both are quality bowlers…”