The country’s latest pace sensation Umran Malik talks about his first full IPL season with Sunrisers Hyderabad, his family, his early years in Jammu & Kashmir,
and his love for fast bowling. This session was moderated by Devendra Pandey, Senior Assistant Editor, The Indian Express.
Devendra Pandey: Let me tell you a story about Umran that we witnessed in this IPL. There was a banner declaring, ‘We have come to watch Umran Malik’. It was the first time a bowler brought such crowds in. Umran, you’ve got so many good wishes and compliments this season. What has been your favourite compliment?
I feel proud when I play in the IPL and people are waving banners and singing my name. It gives me a boost and gives me the confidence to perform better. The support of the people has been immense and it has felt good to receive.
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Devendra Pandey: What is it that’s so different about you and is bringing these crowds in?
God has gifted me with pace and that is bringing me all the love of people around India. Inshallah, I continue to receive this love and I will continue to give 120 per cent effort on the field to get better results.
Devendra Pandey: We have heard that doctors in your hometown would have a field day because of the injuries caused by your pace bowling?
(Laughs) It isn’t like that. When I used to play, I would get hurt myself. We used to play on grounds with stones on them and I would regularly hurt my feet. Chappals, shoes — something would always break.
When I was young, I would play with a plastic ball and get scolded for breaking glass windows. But my mother would not stop me from playing and would say, ‘khel, tod’ (play, break)
Devendra Pandey: When did Umran Malik realise he wanted to be a fast bowler?
I loved fast bowling from the beginning. When I was young, I would play with a plastic ball at home and would get scolded for breaking glass windows. But even then, my mother would not stop me from playing and would say, ‘khel, tod’ (Play, break).
Devendra Pandey: When did you realise that you can bowl really fast? What was that moment like?
When I was a net bowler in the IPL, I came to know that I can bowl very fast, and work up a good pace. Players like David Warner and Rashid Khan used to say that I bowl very fast. When such big players told me, ‘you quick, you quick’,it built my confidence a lot.
Devendra Pandey: India usually prefers its batsmen over bowlers. Did people ever advise you to try to bat rather than bowl?
Nobody advised me to become a batsman over a bowler. Everyone knew that I always wanted to bowl fast. When I played U-19 cricket in 2018, that was when I decided that I wanted to work really hard at bowling and become better. Inshallah, today because of the grace of God, I have become a good bowler.
I have not followed Waqar Younis. I have a natural action. My idols include Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvneshwar bhai. I used to follow them when I was coming through the ranks
Devendra Pandey: So much hard work must have gone into you becoming a good bowler.
I have practised on training grounds when the temperature has been 50 degrees and breathing was becoming hard.
Abhishek Purohit: During your spell against the Gujarat Titans, where you took five wickets, it felt like every ball would knock the stumps over. You bowled four of the batsmen out but for Hardik Pandya there was a specific plan of shifting Marco Jansen next to the sight-screen and bowling a bouncer to get a top edge. Didn’t you feel like knocking Pandya’s stumps over as well?
When I play, I’m not scared of any player, no matter what the stature of the player is. I always start with wanting to play with a positive mindset. Of the five wickets I took that day, I felt that after getting the wickets of Shubman Gill and Hardik bhai, the confidence to bowl better grew. I continued to bowl the ball in good areas and got wickets. But for Hardik, the plan was to bowl the bouncer as soon as he came in. And it worked, as I got him that way.
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Abhishek Purohit: Your captain Kane Williamson would sometimes keep all the five deep fielders either square or behind the wicket, which was quite a sight. You kept bowling bouncers and barely let the Punjab Kings batsmen come forward at DY Patil Stadium. How was it bowling to that field?
I have never bowled to a field like that. I felt very happy that one of the biggest captains in the world had set such a field for my bowling at such a high level of the game. My confidence was very high after that. Alhamdulillah, I was successful.
I feel that I am bowling fast and I am pretty good, that is why a batsman is afraid of me. I feel very happy when I bowl a bouncer at his helmet. I feel the happiest when I take a wicket with a yorker
Abhishek Purohit: Even a big hitter such as Shahrukh Khan was pegged back by your bouncers in that game.
My plan was to bowl quick to him in good areas and slip in the odd bouncer. He hits the pitched-up delivery very well. He hit me for a four initially, but then I returned to bowl the hard lengths to him.
Abhishek Purohit: The Brabourne Stadium provides bounce for fast bowlers and you bowled quite a lot of them to David Warner, who is a legend. How did you feel?
The wicket was a little slow that day and I bowled the ball a little further back to him because my square leg and fine leg were standing further away. I was finding success when I was bowling to him around the middle.
Abhishek Purohit: You said that you picked up the wicket celebration from Dale Steyn (Sunrisers bowling coach). What else did you learn from him?
From Dale Steyn sir, I learnt how to keep your mind and body in a positive mindset if the match has not gone well, and not listen to things that people are saying. I also learnt other things from him, such as bowling the slower yorkers as well as how to keep the ball around a good length.
Abhishek Purohit: You have excited people with your pace and everyone seems to have an opinion on what Umran Malik should do. Some say you should bowl more yorkers, some say slower ones and so on. For you, personally, what was the biggest learning from your first full IPL season?
First of all, I am really thankful to my franchise that gave me the opportunity to play all the games for them. And praise be to god, my performance was good as well. What I got to learn is that if I bowl in good, hard areas, I will pick up wickets. And if I keep trying, the ball will swing too, the yorkers will also land on target, and everything will go according to plan.
Abhishek Purohit: When you went for runs in the IPL, what did the team management tell you, and how did an expensive spell affect you?
The team management always supported me. They did not make me feel low if I went for too many runs. But I would get low by myself. Even if I concede 35 runs, I start thinking why have I conceded these many runs and not taken wickets. I fight with myself. I am very passionate about doing well.
Sriram Veera: I saw a lovely video where one of your friends told a story about a tennis-ball match in which you were bowling and the wicketkeeper had kept his phone in his pocket…
Yes, yes, I will tell you the full story. It was a night tennis-ball tournament being held in Jammu. This guy named Vicky was the wicketkeeper. He had kept his phone in his front pocket. When I bowled a yorker, it hit bang on the phone display, which shattered into pieces. You have reminded me of a very funny incident, I remember I had laughed so much when it happened.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Did you pay him for breaking the phone?
Yes, I did. He was after me, I had to pay him the money.
Sriram Veera: You have broken Vicky’s mobile phone. But tell us about a yorker and a bouncer against an international batsmen, which you enjoyed the most?
I floored (Andre) Russell with a bouncer and dismissed Shreyas Iyer with a yorker. I enjoyed these a lot.
Sriram Veera: You also made Matthew Wade look like a novice.
I enjoyed that also.
Sriram Veera: It is said that fast bowlers enjoy seeing fear in the batsmen’s eyes. Jeff Thomson would say he did not like bowling outswingers, he wanted to see blood as he hit the batsmen. What gives you the most joy in fast bowling?
The thing about fast bowling that gives me the most joy is taking wickets. When a batsman is afraid, I feel that I am bowling fast and I am pretty good, that is why he is afraid of me. I feel very happy when I beat the batsman by bowling in good areas, or when I bowl a bouncer at his helmet. I feel the happiest when I take a wicket with a yorker.
Sandeep Dwivedi: What kind of support has your family provided? Your sisters are very fond of you… they would open the door for you when you would return home late after playing night games.
My father, mother and sisters have supported me a lot, especially my sisters. I would tell my father that I was going to play and he would never refuse permission. He would not go to sleep until I came back, he would remain awake in his room. He would worry that his child had gone to play and had still not returned home. I would then call up my sister at night and tell her, ‘please, please, open the door.’ And she would open the door, even at 1 am.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Do you miss the family atmosphere now that you do not get to spend much time at home? How do you balance that with the success and fame you have achieved?
I am trying to balance it. I keep talking to my family on the phone all the time. That way, it does not feel that I have not been in touch, and it does not get too difficult. Hopefully, it will remain the same. I will keep myself busy with the game and my family.
Devendra Pandey: Did you face any difficulties while growing up?
My parents never stopped me from playing. My father had a fruit store but he never refused to give me money. I got the money I needed.
Devendra Pandey: Your father once told me that he was worried about young boys getting into stuff such as drugs.
I never went towards such things. I was only addicted to cricket and nothing else.
Sandeep Dwivedi: This is a big moment for Jammu & Kashmir. You are getting so much affection on social media too. How important is it for the state that a big player like you has come up?
I would like to thank all my people of J&K. I come from a small state and have got so much love.
Mihir Vasavda: We have seen it with footballers from J&K that they do not have too many opportunities, hence they require something special to prove themselves and come into contention for selection. Do you agree with that?
I don’t think so. You do get opportunities, but only those who are really good get the opportunities. However, we do not have a lot of infrastructure. Hopefully, the infrastructure will keep improving and our boys will keep getting better. We do have a lot of talent in our state.
Shamik Chakrabarty: You have shown your calibre in white-ball cricket and IPL. You must have aspirations of excelling in red-ball cricket and playing Test matches too. That will be more difficult as you would have to bowl longer spells. How are you preparing to bowl longer spells without compromising on pace?
Right now, I am working on my fitness, doing a lot of gym training. I am preparing myself for T20, ODIs, Tests — all formats of cricket. I am ready for whatever opportunity comes my way, whether I have to bowl longer or shorter spells.
Shamik Chakrabarty: Brett Lee has said that he was reminded of Waqar Younis after watching you bowl. Have you followed Waqar subconsciously or had any other idols?
I have not followed Waqar Younis. I have a natural action. My idols include (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammed) Shami and Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) bhai. I used to follow them when I was playing while coming through the ranks.
Devendra Pandey: When there is such hype around you and people are saying that you are about to get an India call-up, how difficult is it to remain calm and not get carried away?
There’s no point getting carried away. If it is destined to happen, it will. I want to do my best for my country. I have got an opportunity in these five (T20I) matches (against South Africa). My goal will be that we win all five matches, I perform well and single-handedly win those games for India.
Devendra Pandey: Have you got any time for yourself after the IPL, or are you just running from one function to another? How has your life changed?
Firstly, I am really grateful for all the love and respect that I have been getting from all over India. Relatives and other people keep coming home, it feels very good. I have been a bit busy after the IPL, but have not missed training and practice.
Devendra Pandey: Do you want your father to continue his business of selling fruits?
That is our family business since the past 70 years. My grandfather, father and uncle have been working on it. It is not that if I am playing for India, my father will stop working. My father always tells me that we will remain where we have risen from. I come from an average family. I
feel very happy that I have made my father proud.
Nitin Sharma: There are a lot of pace bowlers emerging from your state right now, like Basit Bashir, Rasikh Salam and Sharukh Ahmed Dar, who are coming up as net bowlers in the IPL. You have become a role model for them. How do you look at that and how can you contribute to their development and growth?
If the upcoming players from my state face any problems, such as in practice facilities, my role comes there. What can I say about being a role model? There are a lot of bowlers in my state who can bowl 130-140 (kmph). Seeing me, they will feel good and can also believe that they can succeed and go far, that players from a small state can also come to the forefront and play for India. If I can do it, they can too. Hopefully, that will be the case.
Sandeep Dwivedi: How big a role has Abdul Samad, a player from your state who also is with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, played in your journey?
He has had a very big role in my journey. He took me with him as a net bowler in the IPL. We used to practice together.
Sandeep Dwivedi: He has taken many other players with him too. Generally, what happens is that one player emerges, but he doesn’t take others with him. But Samad took others along with him. How important is that for a young player like you?
It is very important that if we are playing at a higher level, we take other boys with us too, as net bowlers. That is our role too. Whatever we can do, we will do for our state. The more young players emerge from our state, the better it will be.
Devendra Pandey: What else do you like apart from cricket? Movies, food?
I like car rides.
Devendra Pandey: Do you have a favourite driver, such as Michael Schumacher?
My favourite driver is this boy named Atif. We had gone for an overnight stay to Patnitop [a tourist destination in the Jammu region], where it was snowing a lot. I could not get the car through the snow. Atif is younger than me. I told him, ‘It doesn’t matter if the car gets damaged, but nothing should happen to us.’ But he got the car, an i20, safely through three feet of snow. Even SUVs were stuck, but he got an i20 through!
Devendra Pandey: What about movies?
Movies, not really. I watch a bit of Netflix. I’m watching Money Heist currently.
Sriram Veera: We have heard your mother cooks very tasty kheer. Is that so?
It’s very delicious. Come whenever you can and taste it.