Should Umran Malik go to the T20 World Cup?
True breakneck pace is something that makes a difference in any sport. From football to rugby to - obviously - sprinting, the presence of a professional with real gas is an X-factor. A player blessed with this pace may not be the best player around, nor the most complete - but they can be more ruinous to the opposition than any other, because once you’re face to face with that speed, all planning and tactics go out the window.
This knowledge is at the heart of one of the great debates in Indian cricket right now, and one that is getting air time on betting sites for Indian punters as well as lengthy newspaper articles. The question on the table is whether Hyderabad fast bowler Umran Malik should be included in the national squad for this September’s Twenty20 World Cup. An increasing number of top cricket pundits are arguing that he absolutely should, but as we will see below, it’s not that straightforward.
Bowling close to 100mph may make him unplayable
Malik is certainly not the most economical bowler in the world, which makes him a liability in some people’s eyes, particularly in Twenty20 where controlling the opposition’s scoring is so key. However, when his eye is in, he’s a nightmare for even hardened international batsman. In this year’s IPL, he’s laid down a ball of 156kph. That’s close to 100mph, and pace like that, when controlled, can make a fool out of any batsman. Umran Malik doesn’t need to give you 20, or even 10 overs of composed bowling. He just needs to bring the fire for four or five, and he can tear apart a batting line-up.
He’s still exceptionally raw
As we’ve noted, Malik’s economy rate is not the best, which is down to the fact that he’s incredibly fast, but not hugely controlled. That’s a balance that selectors need to bear in mind when picking a team for a match, and often it will be worth it. But raw pace with minimal control isn’t just bad for an economy rate, it can also be problematic for a player’s fitness. Shoulder, back and leg injuries can result from unrefined technique, and all the more so it pace like Malik generates. So maybe a few seasons under the tutelage of a patient coach would be in his interest right now.
The next T20 is two years from now
In Twenty20, everything is faster - the overs, the innings, the games and the tournaments. So, too, are the breaks between tournaments. If Umran Malik doesn’t go to Australia with his compatriots this year, he could still be on the plane for the 2024 World Cup, part of which takes place in the USA.
The potential to be the star of a tournament which could see cricket gaining more mass appeal in the States could work out for Malik. If his talents are marshalled carefully now, his deliveries could make up most of the highlight reel for that World Cup. On the flipside, India might want to strike while the iron is hot and take him now, when one good spell from him could see them win their first T20 title since the inaugural competition in 2007.
In any case, the decision will be taken in the next few months, and we’re likely to be hearing Malik’s name a lot between now and then.