Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt has downplayed comparisons between Shoaib Akhtar and Umran Malik, saying the Indian quick still has a long way to go in international cricket. The just-concluded 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) unearthed many young players including Umran, who made headlines with his raw pace. The Sunrisers Hyderabad paceman clocked speeds of over 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour and ended up picking 22 wickets in 14 matches. (Also Read | ‘Have him as floater. He will be exceptionally dangerous’: Ponting backs ‘outstanding’ India youngster for T20 World Cup)
The 22-year-old bowler from Jammu enjoyed a stellar IPL season that saw him touch even the 157 kph (97.5 mph) mark – the fastest delivery by an Indian in the tournament history. Umran’s thunderbolts won rave reviews from pundits and fans and he was eventually issued a maiden call-up for India’s ongoing home T20I series against South Africa. He is yet to don India colours but many have already drawn comparisons between him and Shoaib Akhtar, who is arguably the fastest bowler the game has ever witnessed.
Butt, however, feels Umran should perform in world cricket before people compare him to ‘top-notch’ players. He also labelled the Indian as an exciting prospect and backed his inclusion in the playing eleven too.
“I don’t know why Umran is being held back. Bhuvneshwar is an experienced bowler and India could have rested him along with other senior players. They could have tried Umran, who is different from other bowlers. He bowls fast and comes as a surprise element against batters,” said Butt on his YouTube channel.
“We have people in both countries who like to have such pointless discussions. You draw a comparison when something happens at the international level. Any fast bowler who can bowl 150 kph is an exciting prospect. Umran is as exciting as any person who bowls 150-plus. But let him play and do something first, then you can compare him with top-notch cricketers. I don’t think we should have these comparisons at this stage,” he added.
Former players and experts have all spoken in unison about Umran’s selection in the national team, thanks to his ability to crack up the speed.
The first player in history to break the 100-mile barrier, Akhtar himself had backed the Indian speedster to enter the elusive club. The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ said Umran belongs to the world stage but warned him to stay away from injuries.
“I want to see him have a long career. A few days ago, someone was congratulating me as it’s been 20 years since I bowled the fastest delivery but no one has been able to break the record. But I said, ‘There must be someone who can smash this record’. I will be happy if Umran breaks my record. But needs to ensure that he doesn’t get injured in the process want to see him playing for a long stretch without any injuries,” Akhtar had told Sportskeeda.
“I want to see him on the world stage as he belongs there. At present, there are not many people who can cross the 150 kph mark. We have seen that Umran has been bowling consistently at that pace. I want Umran to that 100 mph mark at the back of his mind. I will be happy if he enters the 100 mph club. But he has to stay away from injuries which can halt his career.”