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Indian Premier League 2021

Is Umran Malik already the fastest bowler from India?

by Sarah Waris 5 minute read

Umran Malik, playing just his first season of IPL, has left many spellbound with his raw pace. Sarah Waris looks back at other speedsters from the past to figure out where Umran stands among India’s fastest.

Virat Kohli, with his host of expressions and emotions on the field, remains a delight for every cameraman and photojournalist. Every wicket is honoured in his own manner, and every loss has its own unique set of glares that makes for a wonderful collage. The joke remains that there is a special camera, the “Virat Cam” that is always assigned for the India skipper, who never disappoints with his animated celebrations.

The “Virat Cam” worked overtime as RCB took on SRH in an IPL league match on Wednesday. A match of little significance — Hyderabad had already crashed out while Bangalore had sealed their spot in the top four — however, was much followed as viewers tuned in to witness young Umran Malik in action yet again. Having already wowed with his ability to send down 150+kph thunderbolts in SRH’s previous game, he was expected to continue his performance against a team led by a player who always appreciated a promising Indian quick.

And, he was quick! As the Jammu and Kashmir player troubled batters with deliveries touching 153kph, Kohli could not contain the sparkle in his eyes. As Umran constantly beat the RCB players for pace with well-directed bouncers, Kohli was seen nodding his head in approval, which was further confirmed in the post-match interview. “Whenever you see talent like this, you are going to have your eyes on them and make sure you maximise their potential.”

Though his team eventually lost the match, Kohli would have been licking his lips in anticipation looking at the promise of Umran and at the potential of what he can bring to the table for India in a few years.

But why the sudden attention on a cricketer who has played four T20 games and one List A match, in which he conceded 98 runs in 10 overs? He has picked up just two wickets in the IPL, including one that didn’t come off the greatest delivery, and surely there needs to be a greater sample size before the eyes of the world stay fixed on him? While that remains true, Umran has already become one of the fastest bowlers from the country, which makes it tough to entirely overlook his presence altogether.

Is Umran the fastest bowler from India already?

Before we look at the bowlers who have been even faster than Umran, we clarify that the speed gun levels haven’t always been accurate, and it is impossible to state who the fastest bowler of all time has been. However, a few Indians managed to bowl over 152kph in their heyday.

Javagal Srinath is said to have bowled the fastest ball by an India quick. The Karnataka cricketer clocked 149.6kph to become the second-fastest bowler in the 1999 World Cup, only after Shoaib Akhtar. Unofficially reports also suggest that Srinath could have breached the 157kph-mark during India’s tour to South Africa in 1996, but the presence of reliable speed guns ensures that the number doesn’t make it to the official list.

Irfan Pathan remains a bowler who fizzled out even before he could reach his full potential but he did not forget to leave his mark in his limited chances. The left-arm swing bowler troubled batters with his accuracy and sent down a 153.7kph delivery during the 2007 T20 World Cup, which is unofficially the second-fastest ball that has been sent down by an India player in international cricket.

Pathan’s state-mate Jasprit Bumrah comes close on the list, with a delivery that clocked 153.26kph during the first Test match against Australia in 2018. He ended the series as the joint highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps, which helped India win their first-ever series Down Under.

Another current player Mohammed Shami, who has cut down on his pace a tad for accuracy, had recorded 153.3kph during the third Test match against Australia in Melbourne in 2015. He ended the series with 15 wickets, the fastest from India.

While the four aforementioned players were quicker than Umran, a host of other bowlers are barely behind him in the list of fastest balls bowled by Indians. Navdeep Saini’s delivery of 152.85kph during the 2019 edition of the India Premier League was the fastest ball in the IPL by an Indian, till Umran broke the record, while Ishant Sharma had sent down a 152.6kph ball while playing against Australia in the CB series way back in 2008. Four years later, Umesh Yadav bowled at a speed of 152.5kph against Sri Lanka in Brisbane, and Varun Aaron also clocked the same speed against the same rivals in 2014 to ensure his name finds a spot in the list of fastest bowlers from India.

What sets Umran apart, though, is his consistency in speeds, something which a few of the former quicks had to cut down on. Reducing their pace either due to injuries or for the need to be accurate meant that India, over time, lacked an out-and-out quick. Munaf Patel, starting his career as a 140s bowler and eventually finished with a speed in the mid-120s, remains a prime example of those who, unfortunately, failed to live up to his initial promise.

Umran might be in better hands. With an India captain who relishes pace, he can go on to become the fastest bowler from the country, and when that happens, capturing the expression on Kohli’s face would be well worth it.

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