“Malik is my favourite. I want to see him in the Indian team because what a bowler he is. Tell me any one bowler who bowls more than 150 (kmph) and isn’t playing for the country,” Harbhajan said, while going gaga over the Sunrisers Hyderabad speed gun at a promotional event for the T20 World Cup Down Under in Australia in October-November.
The retired tweaker, who took 417 Test wickets in 103 Tests, and 269 wickets in 236 ODIs, wants Malik, who’s taken 15 wickets with his lightning speed in IPL 2022, to partner pace ace Jasprit Bumrah for Team India in the T20 World Cup later this year. “So I think, it is a great, great thing and he will inspire many youngsters to take up this game, the way he has come from and what he is doing in the IPL, he’s been unbelievable. I don’t know whether he will be selected or not, but if I was part of the selection committee, I would have given him a go ahead (for his selection). Malik should be the partner with Jasprit Bumrah when India plays in Australia (in the T20 World Cup),” recommended Harbhajan.
Having dealt a fair amount of IPL games will help Malik cope with the pressure of international cricket, Harbhajan felt. “See there is more pressure in international cricket, there is no doubt about it, but I think he (Umran) has played enough IPL games against a lot of the top players of the world playing in this competition and he has taken their wickets and some of the Indian batters he is bowling to are also brilliant players. So, pressure will be there, whether you play against Bangladesh or Netherlands or Australia or England, any game you play for India there will be added pressure and that’s what makes you a cricketer what you want to be. I am sure he will also learn, he is a great promising cricketer and I hope he gets selected and plays for India,” said the 41-year-old.
Explaining why the 22-year-old should be fast-tracked into Team India on an urgent basis, Harbhajan said, “When Sachin played for India, he was very young. Of course, he was Sachin Tendulkar, but that’s okay, aise hi player bante hai. When I played my first Test match, I was 17 and half, but if you keep on thinking that he is a kid, then time will run out. When he is bowling at his best, he should be playing. Someone batting at his best should be there. Forget what his age is, when someone is performing well and is fit enough, they should walk in.”
‘Hope Virat, Rohit will bounce back’
Meanwhile, they may be going through a lean patch in IPL 2022, but Harbhajan backed current and former India captains Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to bounce back into form before the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
“Of course, they are champion, world-class players. I’m hopeful that they will get back into form much before the (T20) World Cup. This (lean patch) is a part and parcel of the game. Everyone goes through this and I am sure they will come out of it and they will become even stronger and better players out of this (phase),” he said.