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Umran Malik, a talented right-arm quick from Jammu and Kashmir, has caught the attention of cricket enthusiasts with his exceptional performances in limited-overs cricket. However, it is time to consider his potential in Test matches as well. The upcoming West Indies series presents an ideal opportunity for the Indian team management to explore the capabilities of not only Umran Malik but also other promising players like Mukesh Kumar and Arshdeep Singh. This blog will delve into the reasons why Malik deserves a chance in the Test arena and why the West Indies tour is crucial for his development as a red-ball bowler.
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In the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Umran Malik showcased his prowess by dismissing Kolkata Knight Riders' skipper, Shreyas Iyer, with a brilliant yorker. What stood out was not just the delivery itself, but also the strategic set-up leading to the dismissal. Malik's thunderbolts and the field placements instilled a doubt of a short ball in Iyer's mind, causing him to constantly move around the crease in search of a solution. Ultimately, Iyer succumbed to the sheer pace of Malik. This incident demonstrated Malik's ability to set up a batsman, a skill that could prove valuable in Test matches where bowlers often bowl longer spells.
Umran Malik possesses raw talent and remarkable pace, making him a lethal bowler when provided with the right guidance and support. While he may not have been utilized effectively by the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, it does not warrant consigning him to obscurity. His youth, pace, and potential require a competent captain and coach to maximize his effectiveness. The dismissal of Iyer in the IPL game showcased that Malik has the smarts to outsmart batsmen, a trait that can be extremely useful in the longer format of the game.
Following India's disappointment in the recent World Test Championship (WTC) final, the selectors are keen to introduce fresh talent into the squad. The tour of the West Indies provides a perfect opportunity for Umran Malik to demonstrate his skills with the red ball. With Jasprit Bumrah's absence in the final, India relied on the 35-year-old Umesh Yadav, who failed to deliver as expected, ultimately costing the team the match. Given Umesh's age and the future WTC final in England, where spinners may have limited impact, India must cultivate a new pace battery. The West Indies tour marks an ideal starting point for Malik's red-ball career.
Although Umran Malik has only played a handful of first-class games, he has already displayed his ability to consistently hit hard lengths, particularly in the IPL. Even in Indian conditions, his extra pace, especially with the old ball, could make him a force to be reckoned with. However, his ability to build spells and bowl long overs in Test matches remains an unknown factor. The quality of West Indies batters provides an excellent learning opportunity for Malik to hone his skills and gain valuable experience on the job.
In addition to Umran Malik, another promising talent that deserves consideration for Test matches is Bengal's Mukesh Kumar. India lacks a bowler who can consistently hit the same spot throughout the day, maintaining tight lines and lengths. Mukesh Kumar's ability to do just that, as evidenced by his impressive performance in first-class cricket, makes him an ideal candidate for this role. With 123 wickets from 33 games at an average of 21.49, Mukesh has consistently proven his worth. His inclusion in the team could provide much-needed respite for other fast bowlers and help India curtail the run flow during crucial partnerships.
Since the retirement of Zaheer Khan, the Indian team has struggled to find a quality left-arm seamer. While Jaydev Unadkat has been part of the squad in recent series, he is often seen as a horses-for-courses selection rather than a regular player. Arshdeep Singh, who has plied his trade in county cricket for Kent, could be a better investment in this role. Although Arshdeep has limited experience in first-class cricket, he has shown the ability to swing the new ball and his stint in overseas conditions with the Dukes ball at Kent will undoubtedly enhance his skills. Including him in the Test team would provide a much-needed left-arm variation to the bowling attack.
Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar, and Arshdeep Singh present exciting prospects for Indian Test cricket. While Malik's raw talent, combined with his ability to set up batsmen, makes him a promising fast bowler, Mukesh's reliability and ability to hit consistent lines and lengths can bolster India's bowling attack. Arshdeep's left-arm swing and exposure to county cricket further strengthen his case for inclusion. The West Indies series provides a golden opportunity for these young talents to prove their mettle and contribute to the team's success. It is time for the Indian selectors and team management to invest in these players and foster a formidable pace battery for future challenges.