As Jammu and Kashmir's lethal pacer Umran Malik gets his maiden chance to play for the Indian squad, the city erupted with celebration at his home in Gujjar Nagar Jammu. His kith and kin turned out in lines on the roads, saying that Malik has made them proud.
On Sunday, India's Board of Control for Cricket (BCC) listed out the T20I squad for the upcoming five-match series against South Africa. Malik, the fairy pacer, made another appearance in the news headlines because of his name on the list after a sensational performance in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL).
"Cricketers in the Valley are hopeful now that in coming years, Jammu and Kashmir will produce many good cricketers. We don't have good wickets here, nor a conducive environment, but still we are producing the best out of best. His selection will absolutely encourage the cricket lovers in the Valley,” Muzzamil Nazir, 24, a fairy pacer from baramulla, who has been playing cricket for the last 10 years, told NewsClick.
After Umran's selection in team India, many areas in J&K saw celebrations. Former J&K Sports Council members, including Rahil Gupta and other sports dignitaries congratulated Malik for gaining this feat. In the IPL, he was the key bowler of Sunrisers Hyderabad and created history by delivering his fastest pace that often crosses the 150-kmph mark. "In South Africa, the wicket is quite hard and Umran's pace will absolutely be worth watching. And, I believe he will become India's main bowler in the future if his consistency and winning momentum remain the same," Nazir added.
While speaking to NewsClick, Nazir said it is Malik’s golden opportunity as far as the South African tour is concerned, which is scheduled to begin on June 9. On Sunday, Malik won another fastest delivery of the match award for the 14th consecutive time. The pace bowler got the award after bowling at a speed of 153.5 kmph in the last league stage match of IPL 2022, the highest so far in the session.
Due to his terrific performance in the IPL, the 22-year-old cricketer from Jammu City has notched up 21 wickets in 13 matches of the ongoing season of the world’s richest franchise cricket league. The cricketers in the valley believe that the call-up was on the expected lines due to his outstanding performance in the IPL.
Malik’s father, Abdul Rashid. A fruit seller in Jammu's Gujjar Nagar, said, "My emotions went out of control after I was phoned that my son has been selected for team India. When I saw people coming out on roads in celebration, I too joined them. "
As soon as the news of his selection got out in the public domain, the well wishers of Malik thronged the streets and lifted his father on their shoulders, and chanted, “Umran, you have made us proud."
Rashid, 47, told NewsClick that during the IPL season, the entire nation supported his son. He added, "I'm thankful to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for supporting my son so far. People in Jammu come in hoards to congratulate me. I am now going home and will join the celebrations. I just saw the news on the internet too. What could be a bigger achievement than to wear the national colors?"
Rashid was taken with emotion and found it difficult to express himself effectively. It was, after all, a different Sunday evening. He had never experienced anything like this in his nearly five decades of life.
"My son has made the entire country proud. It was his ultimate dream that finally came true. He has the stamina and capacity to break world's biggest records in the future," he said.
"We have always kept Umran happy and never made him aware of the difficulties he faces. We provided him everything he asked for. My wife, more than I, is his staunchest supporter," he added.
Lack of Infrastructure Shuts Dreams of Many
"Umran hoped that he would turn the table one day. He believed in himself and strained every nerve to improve his skills and gauge his weaknesses. It is solely due to his undying efforts and the blessings of the almighty God. I am unworthy of praise for his efforts," said the cricketer’s father.
Malik became the second cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to play for India, following off-spinner Parvez Rasool who played an ODI and T20 in 2017. Since then, no other player from J&K has ever played for India till Malik. The pace bowler is a Jammu native who is coached by Randhir Singh Manhas and schooled by Ram Dayal, a senior state team pacer who also gave him his first spikes.
The Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JCCA) video analyst Sameer Ahmed told NewsClick that it was crystal clear about Umran's natural talent. ”He has hidden talents but the concern management could not explore that on time due to the non availability of speedometers,” he said.
"We don't have a lack of talent here, but the poor infrastructure in terms of sports shuts the dreams of many cricketers,” Ahmed added.
The JCCA staff said that throughout Jammu, there is only one cricket stadium, which was under construction for a long time. "There are many players like Umran who can play for India, but the government should develop result-oriented sports infrastructure," Ahmed further said.
Meanwhile, the lieutenant governor of J&K, Manoj Sinha, said in a tweet, "Heartiest congratulations to Umran Malik for being selected in Team India for the T20 Series against South Africa." It is a proud moment for Jammu and Kashmir. Congratulations and best wishes,"
Shakeeb Ali, 25, a cricketer from Malik's locality, said parents in the area are enrolling their sons to cricket clubs, thinking if Malik can do it, why can others not do the same.
"Many tournaments are being conducted here at the local level by cricketing youths. Umran's entry in team India has already done what we had been looking for at the beginning of his journey," he said.
Shakeeb says that even in Gujjar Nagar, the youths do not have a playground where they can play. Malik belongs to the same area, where he was brought up.
Srinagar-based fairy pacer Sheikh Shariq, 24, told NewsClick that he has trained with Malik and seen him very closely.
"I was part of the training camp with Umran in Jammu during domestic trials. After achieving this feat in team India, he has become an icon for one and all," Shariq said.
(Irshad Hussain is an independent Journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir. He tweets at: @Irshad55hussain)