The moniker ‘Jammu Express’ perfectly fits Umran Malik, who hails from Gujjar Nagar in Jammu. His searing pace – he has consistently clocked 150kmph in the Indian Premier League – has got the cricketing world excited and there are talks of fast-tracking him to the Indian national side.
Playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, he recently raised the temperature further, in an already hot summer, with a delivery that clocked 157 kmph – the fastest of this tournament so far – against the Delhi Capitals.
Umran, still grounded but well aware of the hype surrounding him, tells Sportstar, that he is “ready” to don the India colours.
The ‘Jammu Express’ has left the station, let the journey begin…
How would you rate your season so far?
This is (technically) my first full season, and I am happy that I have got a chance to play from the start. We want to win all our games and qualify (for the playoffs). We will put in our best effort, and I hope to continue like this for the entire season.
I could not bowl slower deliveries last season, but I have improved on that front. I can bowl slower deliveries and yorkers. I am also able to maintain proper line and length, so these are my learnings from this edition of the tournament.
When you started playing at the under-19 level for Jammu and Kashmir, you impressed your teammates and coaches with your pace. And over the last few weeks, you have constantly clocked 150kmph-plus in the IPL. How do you manage consistency?
When I was playing U-19, even then I could bowl pretty quick. I remember everyone who saw me then would say, “Tu sabse tez daalta hai… (you bowl the quickest).” Everyone was impressed with my pace, but it was important to maintain the pace and be accurate. I work a lot on my fitness and do regular gym sessions and ensure that I get good sleep –about eight to 10 hours. For a fast bowler, diet is also important, so I take a lot of protein, and that’s why I am always fit and energetic.
But you have also conceded a few runs in the last few games… How do you cope with that?
For every game, we walk in with a plan and try to execute it. Look, not all plans will be successful, so it is necessary to have an alternative. And in situations where you are being hit by a batter, it is important to stay positive because if you let negativity creep in, then it will be difficult to bounce back. So, even if you end up conceding runs, it is important to back yourself, bank on your abilities and come back strong. That’s what I have been trying to do.
You were a bit erratic with your line when you first came into the scene in Jammu and Kashmir… How have you rectified this?
When I started bowling with the hard ball, deliveries would get a bit erratic. Back then, I hadn’t played much with the hard ball, so there was not much experience. But the more I play, the more experience I gain. Now, I can bowl better line and length and in the right areas. I can bowl with confidence and that’s a very good thing.
Words of wisdom: “I met Irfan (Pathan) Bhai in Jammu (when he was the mentor of the Jammu and Kashmir team). Back then, I had a side-on action and would jump out, so Irfan Bhai worked with me and helped me better my action and ball control. – SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Over the years, you have received support from two noted fast bowlers – Irfan Pathan and Dale Steyn. They have seen you at two different stages of your career, but how have they helped you in becoming a better bowler?
I met Irfan Bhai in Jammu (when he was the mentor of the Jammu and Kashmir team). Back then, I had a side-on action and would jump out, so Irfan Bhai worked with me and helped me better my action and ball control. Even after Irfan Bhai left Jammu, I would send him videos of my bowling and he would give me his inputs and suggestions. It was fun working with him, he would always say, “Tu achha hai, aur mehnat karte jaa… (you are good, keep working hard) …” and those words actually helped me.
I met Dale Sir at SRH, and so far, it has been exciting. He is a very positive person, and it has been really an experience to work under him. I am glad to have worked under two legends and with their guidance, I have sharpened my skills and can now bowl better.
Despite being a speedster, you remain rather untested with the new ball. Why is it so?
I bowl with the new ball at the nets and have even tempted the batters to offer catches to the wicketkeeper. I can bowl well with the new ball and even at the death, I feel I can come up with good slowers and yorkers.
Many feel that you should be fast-tracked into the Indian team. Do you feel ready if the opportunity comes?
I am definitely ready, but it’s up to the selectors to decide. But as far as I am concerned, I am preparing myself and whenever they give me a chance, I will try to perform to the best of my abilities and will give my 100 per cent. I am working hard and waiting for that opportunity, and whenever that comes my way, I want to make the most of it.
Learning the tricks: ”I have learnt a lot from Bhuvi bhai, who always comes to the ground with a positive mindset. Bhuvi bhai is such a stalwart and I feel proud to pick his brains and learn a thing or two from someone like him,” says Malik – Sportzpics / IPL
You have shared the dressing room with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T. Natarajan. What have you learnt from them?
Both Bhuvi Bhai and Nattu have been of great help. I have learnt a lot from Bhuvi Bhai, who always comes to the ground with a positive mindset. Bhuvi Bhai is such a stalwart and I feel proud to pick his brains and learn a thing or two from someone like him. In the middle, he keeps guiding me and comes up with several ideas which help me improve. He has made it a point to share his thoughts (about how to approach a situation) with me and those things help me a lot as a fast bowler. Even Nattu guides me when needed and all those inputs have been helpful.
Your teammates in Jammu and Kashmir reveal that you are very competitive even in the nets, and the only time you get angry is when a batter hits you for a boundary…
(Laughs) Yeah, when I hit the nets even for Jammu and Kashmir, I put in my best effort and bowl at my regular pace. I don’t think whether it is a nets session or a full-fledged match, every time I take the run-up, I bowl to the best of my abilities. And, if a batter hits me, I get aggressive and want to bowl even quicker and place it in the right areas. My intention is always to remove the batter, and I have always done that with accuracy and aggression – even in the nets.
Your friend Abdul Samad played a key role in shaping your career. If you could share a bit about the bonding…
Samad suggested my name as a net bowler to Sunrisers Hyderabad and since then all roads have opened for me. I remember a year after making it to the U-19 team, I was eventually picked for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, but I was young then and was under the impression that I would not be able to deliver on such a big platform.
So, after Samad played in the IPL (in 2020), I once asked him who bowls the fastest, and he replied, “Tu hi daalta hai sabse tez… (you are the quickest).” Those words boosted my confidence.
In Jammu, while training, he would hit me for boundaries, and I would take it as a challenge and bowl even better. Those sessions with him helped me get better as a bowler. He is a great friend and a brother.