Watching from the dugout when pace sensation Umran Malik sent down the Indian Premier League’s fastest delivery so far this season against his side, India captain Virat Kohli said the Jammu and Kashmir youngster’s growth needs to be monitored to ensure his potential is maximised.

The 21-year-old, who has played for Jammu and Kashmir in three T20s and one List A match, has got everyone excited with his raw pace and clocked 152.95 kph during the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Kohli was paying attention and said it was necessary to nurture him, when Harsha Bhogle asked about the Indian pacer in the post-match chat. “This tournament throws up talent every year, good to see a guy bowling at 150 clicks. It is important to understand the progress of individuals from hereon,” Kohli said in the post-match presentation after his team lost the game by four runs.

“The pool of fast bowlers being strong is always a good sign for Indian cricket and whenever you see talent like this, you are going to have your eyes on them and make sure you maximise their potential which is already being seen at the IPL level,” he added.

Malik’s IPL debut was against Kolkata Knight Riders and he clocked 151.03 kmph, which was at that time the fastest delivery by an Indian this season. His 152.95 kmph zinger last night made him the fastest overall of the IPL season, surpassing Lockie Ferguson (152.75 kmph).

SRH skipper Kane Williamson counted him as one of the positives of a largely disappointing season for his team.

“Umran certainly is special. We’ve seen him in the nets for a couple of seasons. Special opportunity for him and it’s not surprising to see him come and do well. (He has) Been a really valuable addition to the side,” said Williamson.

“I try and keep it really simple with him but he’s got a lot of mates in the team and they share the message and he takes the game on,” he added.

IPL 2021 15 Fastest balls (As of match No 52)

PLAYER Speed (km/h)
Umran Malik 152.95
 Lockie Ferguson 152.75
 Lockie Ferguson 152.74
 Umran Malik 151.97
 Umran Malik 151.77
 Anrich Nortje 151.71
 Anrich Nortje 151.71
 Anrich Nortje 151.37
 Lockie Ferguson 151.33
 Lockie Ferguson 151.20
 Umran Malik 151.03
 Anrich Nortje 150.83
 Umran Malik 150.74
 Anrich Nortje 150.71
 Lockie Ferguson 150.39

His domestic team captain Parvez Rasool was awestruck when Umran tormented the KKR batsmen on his IPL debut with his sheer pace.

“He is very talented boy. When I played him in the nets, he was quick. Woh bahot teekha thaa (he was pretty fast) but this was at a different level,” Rasool, the Jammu and Kashmir captain, who has played white ball cricket for India, told PTI on Monday.

“He was literally hurrying the batters with sheer pace. I was very proud to see him hold his own at such a big stage.”

Malik said in an interaction with fellow SRH pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar on Wednesday that he started bowling seriously with the cricket ball only from his Under-19 trials in 2018. Rasool felt the tennis ball background has helped him build the pace.

“Look, I don’t think in his initial years, he had formal coaching before joining the coaching camp of District Sports Council. He used to play a lot of tennis ball matches on hire for Rs 500 or 1000.

“If you look at some of our best fast bowlers including Jasprit (Bumrah), they have all been tennis ball cricket products.

“The light weight of the tennis ball means that to generate pace, you need that extra effort. This kid developed strength and pace by playing tennis ball games that he would play in and around Jammu,” Rasool added in the PTI interview.

Indeed, the 152.95 kph thunderbolt is the fastest delivery bowled by an Indian in the IPL since official data is available (from 2011).

Fastest balls bowled by Indians in IPL seasons

IPL season Bowler Fastest delivery registered (kph)
2021* Umran Malik 152.95*
2020 Navdeeep Saini 149.38
2019 Navdeeep Saini 152.85
2018 Mohammed Siraj 149.94
2017 Varun Aaron 150.12
2016 Varun Aaron 149.32
2015 Varun Aaron  150.24
2014 Varun Aaron 148.96
2013 Umesh Yadav 150.14
2012 Umesh Yadav 151.56
via (*Ongoing season, as of match No 52)

The pace, and his brilliant three-over spell in the middle overs against RCB for 1/10, certainly got the attention from the cricketing community.

The youngster has risen through the ranks despite humble beginnings. His father owns a small fruit shop in Jammu’s Gujjar Nagar area, reported PTI. On his T20 debut in 2021, he picked up 3/24 against Railways which included the wicket of former India player Karn Sharma, who was beaten for sheer pace.

“I used to bowl quickly from the start. I used to play tennis-ball cricket, and there too I was the quickest,” Malik told Bhuvneshwar, saying it began with ‘Costco’ ball for him and he barely knew what spikes were.

“I would bowl fast yorkers there in one-over matches. In 2018, there was a trial for Under-19 cricketers. I bowled there and the selectors saw me. The first time I came for trials I didn’t even know what spikes were. I was bowling in jogging shoes.

“A friend was there with me, he gave me spikes to play. So then I came into the Under-19 team for one-dayers. And the next year I played Under-23. I was practicing regularly [with cricket ball] since 2018. Then I played in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali. And then I was a net bowler with the franchise, and I am thankful for the opportunity,” Malik said adding thanks to his mentors Rajan and Irfan Pathan, as well as J&K and SRH teammate Abdul Samad.

With a mega auction around the corner, Malik has certainly done his case no harm in the Indian Premier League as far his future his concerned. And to think he was only drafted in as a Covid-19 replacement for T Natarajan, the protagonist of another one of the league’s fairy tale stories.

Watch Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s interaction with Umran Malik here.

Stats for fastest deliveries from here.