From Qayoom to Malik: J&K’s tribe of fast bowlers continues to grow | Cricket

At present, India can match the best in the world with their pace bowling arsenal. Swing, seam and even disguise are all covered. But a tearaway fast bowler is a different breed. Express speed is a gift you are born with, it can’t be taught.

The emergence of Jammu & Kashmir’s Umran Malik’s is not a complete surprise though. It is in the same belt as Pakistan, which has produced many fast bowlers.

Those well-versed with J&K’s cricket history know that Malik isn’t the first bowler from the state to have pace like fire. In the 1980s and 1990s, Abdul Qayoom was getting rave reviews for his bowling. He was a rage when he started with a six-wicket haul on debut against Services in 1985-86, and led the J&K bowling attack for 17 years till 2002-03.

He quickly gained a reputation in the North Zone after a seven-wicket haul against Punjab. The batting line-up included Navjot Singh Sidhu, Vikram Rathour and Gurcharan Singh.

“Five of my wickets were with bouncers,” says Qayoom, who gradually turned into a skilful, controlled pacer with the experience of playing with the cream of Indian cricket at Indian Airlines.

Top internationals of the time VVS Laxman and Javagal Srinath were his teammates and Qayoom cherishes taking a five-wicket haul while sharing the new ball with Srinath in the final of the KSCA Diamond Jubilee Invitation Tournament against a strong KSCA XI side at the M Chinnaswamy stadium . His wickets included Rahul Dravid and the fast bowler remembers how Srinath went and stood in the slips next to Laxman to study Qayoom’s bowling.

“I could bowl inswing and outswing at will,” says Qayoom, who finished with 147 wickets in 47 first-class games.

Laxman has a vivid recollection of Qayoom’s bowling: “I played alongside Qayoom from 1996 onwards at Indian Airlines. His understanding of bowling was something which I really appreciated because he was not only a skilful bowler but understood the art of bowling. This I am talking when he was almost at the end of his first-class career. Even then, the way he used his experience to get the batsmen out, he was so quick to spot the weaknesses of batters and used to exploit them.”

The farthest Qayoom could reach was North Zone. But he represented a small cricket unit and a platform like the Indian Premier League didn’t exist then.

This platform has helped the 21-year-old Malik catch the eye of the selectors and he is in the India squad for the T20 series against South Africa.

For a bowler, who in a Deodhar Trophy game against West Zone dismissed prolific opener Surendra Bhave and bowled Vinod Kambli around the legs, Qayoom’s talent largely went unnoticed. In a Wills Trophy one-day game for Wills XI led by Sidhu, he bowled Ravi Shastri on 94.

Now, as a member of Jammu & Kashmir’s Cricket Improvement Committee, he closely tracks Malik’s career. He offers him tips on bowling whenever he seeks him out. As Umran moves into the India set-up, Qayoom has an important piece of advice for the coaches—“don’t tinker with Umran’s action”.

“He has a bright future because his action is so good, perfectly side on with an athletic run-up. He is raw now. If any coach even slightly changes his body angle or wrist position or his grip, usko problem ho jayega. He shouldn’t be touched at all.”

“If he continues to bowl with this rhythm, his speed will also increase. The last time he asked me to oversee his bowling practice, I had given him some tips on how to control the off-stump line. They were very technical points but he rectified the fault in three-four balls. He is a quick learner.”

UMRAN’S IMPACT

Qayoom is seeing first-hand the impact of Umran Malik’s success. A talent hunt is being conducted in the state now. As regional head of talent hunt at Kashmir and Ladakh region he says, “The impact I am seeing is that maximum fast bowlers are participating. In under-19, U-23 and seniors, if 50 batters are coming, 60 fast bowlers are coming for the trials. Cricketers want to be fast bowlers, both in Jammu and in Kashmir.”

When Qayoom’s career was coming to an end, a fast bowler Abid Nabi had generated lot of excitement due to his pace. He went on to play 30 first-class matches, taking 108 wickets from 2004 to 2012, but couldn’t go beyond that.

What happened to him?

“He was a very good bowler: two-three years he did very well, but one has to play 10 months cricket after the Ranji season. How much cricket you will play in Jammu & Kashmir? One has to cope with the Delhi and Chennai heat and play against the best batters of the country,” says Qayoom.

It was the case with most fast bowlers from J&K. “They didn’t come out. Or, he was also very good.”

Malik is the first fast bowler who has got the big platform and has made the most of it. Now, it is up to him to make it count and further inspire J&K’s tribe of fast men.

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