Three games into the 2017 IPL, the Jammu and Kashmir paceman was pining for wickets, seeking for the proper formula to maximise the impact of his raw pace in such a punishing competition. It’s easy to forget after witnessing his 5/25 against Gujarat Titans at the Wankhede on Wednesday that his maiden IPL over had gone for 25 runs. With just two fielders in the deep, Sunrisers Hyderabad entrusted Malik with the responsibility of thwarting Jos Buttler, the current Orange Cap holder, and the Englishman delivered the rookie bowler a lesson in how pace can be counter-productive in T20 cricket. In the powerplay, that was the last time SRH bowled Malik. All of his 30 overs in eight matches this year, with the exception of one over to Buttler and three at the end, have been in the middle. This is undoubtedly an indication of Malik’s maturation as a T20 enforcer—a bowler who looks for wickets when the hitters aren’t in fourth gear. Thanks to the SRH set-up for their guardianship, the ever-improving Malik may now be knocking on the doors of the national selections.

SRH’s desire to invest in Malik’s bullet speeds makes sense, given pace has long been a weakness in their bowling repertoire. Their previous bowling assaults featured Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s and Sandeep Sharma’s swing, as well as Natarajan’s yorkers, but they were all medium pace. This year, they have the big left-handed Marco Jansen, but no one can frighten hitters like Malik can. It may not appear so now, but keeping Malik (3 matches, 2 wickets, SR 36, ER 8 before this season) was a risky move. Similarly, keeping teenage power hitter Abdul Samad was a risky gamble that has yet to pay off. But that’s now only a footnote to what will be remembered as the year the raw, threatening speedster Umran Malik emerged as a wicket-taker and stump-rattler in the IPL.