On Sunday the Board of Control for Cricket in India named the T20 squad for the forthcoming five-match series against South Africa. And Umran Malik made another appearance in the news. After a fantastic season in the cash-rich IPL, the strike bowler got his first call-up to the Indian team.

Malik created IPL history playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad when he bowled a scorcher at 157 kmph. The 22 year old has picked up 22 wickets in the season so far at an average of 20 with a best of 5/25. He has been included in the Indian squad for the T20 games against South Africa, scheduled to start on June 9.

Given his terrific season in the world’s richest franchise cricket league, fans and cricketers in the Kashmir valley said the call-up was on expected lines. But emotions still poured out of Umran’s father, Abdul Rashid.

A fruit seller in Gujjar Nagar in Jammu city, Rashid told journalists he had heard the news through a phone notification, and beamed with pride as he came to terms with what had happened.

“As soon as news of his selection got out, people were lining up in droves to congratulate me. What could be more prestigious than donning the national colours? With his IPL performances and the way the entire country rallied behind him, we as a family can only be grateful,” he said.

“I am very thankful to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for supporting my son so far. People in Jammu come in hordes to congratulate me. Now I am going home and will join the celebrations. I just saw the news on the internet. What could be a bigger achievement?”

Rashid conceded that the news wasn’t entirely surprising, as Umran was always in contention after all those wickets at consistently high speed. Still, “My son has made the entire country proud. It was his ultimate dream that finally came true. Our son has the stamina to break world records in future.”

Umran’s father refuses to take credit for the efforts he and Umran’s mother made to help him overcome all hurdles.

“Umran was certain that he would succeed one day. He believed in himself and worked hard to improve his skills. It’s solely due to his efforts and the blessings of almighty God. He worked hard and received assistance from god. I am unworthy of praise for his efforts,” said Rashid.

Umran Malik is the second cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to play for India, following off-spinner Parvez Rasool from south Kashmir. Born in Srinagar and raised in Jammu, Malik was coached by Randhir Singh Manhas and by Ram Dayal, a senior state-team pacer who also gave him his first spikes.

Manhas described how a 17-year-old Umran casually approached him and requested if he may bowl at his nets, and the rest is history.

“His home is close to the Tawi river, which has primarily sandy riverbanks. Umran spent his childhood playing cricket and running on sandy plains. As a result his lower body is really strong. You won’t find many people who had such a terrific physical structure and inherent strength at the age of 17 without ever going to the gym,” said Umran’s father.

Rashid runs a well-to-do fruit shop in the city’s Shaheedi Nagar neighbourhood. “We as a family firmly want him to work even harder and accomplish more for the country. He needs to focus solely on playing for India.”

“He is our only son, apart from two daughters, therefore my wife and I have always lavished him with love and luxury. We never had any fears that cricket could be a risk for him. We always kept Umran happy and never made him aware of the difficulties he faces. He got everything he asked for. My wife, more than I, is his staunchest supporter,” he added.

Meanwhile their Gujjar Nagar colony exploded in joy, with ecstatic young people carrying the player’s posters and dancing to the beat of drums.

Family members say that Rashid’s lifelong dream was to wear the India Blue shirt, and he is unworried about how IPL riches and an India call-up might influence their financial status. “All we want from him is for his performances to make the country proud. For us, nothing else matters.”

Delhi, Cuttack, Visakhapatnam, Rajkot, and Bengaluru are also hosting matches. Will the star pacer’s family be attending?

“His mother and I will be in the stands on his debut day to cheer him on. But, for the time being, please excuse me. Umar had cautioned me not to speak to the media,” the wary parent concluded.