Umar Akmal's recall - A return to Pakistan Cricket's familiar demons
No matter how far it runs, what milestones it accomplishes, or what demons it leaves behind, one name Pakistan cricket cannot seem to rid itself off is ‘Akmal.’ Through some mysterious road, at least one Akmal brother always finds his way back to the Pakistan dressing room. So, with Umar Akmal’s inclusion in the probable players against Sri Lanka, the question has to be asked – does he deserve it this time?
Akmal junior, who is now 29 years old, has played 82 T20Is with an average of 26.82 and a strike-rate of 122.90. With only eight 50+ scores from 82 matches, Akmal himself will know that he does not have much to brag about at the international T20 stage.
Every time Akmal was given the option to mature as a player and step up his game, he repaid that faith with poor strokes and questionable decisions at the crease. From 2015-16, for example, Akmal was at an age when a batsman is expected to hit his prime form. He played 23 T20 Internationals in this duration, averaging a measly 25.35 with a strike-rate of 126.02. Even these figures were courtesy games against U.A.E and Zimbabwe, in which he managed to accumulate around 31% of his runs in this time period.
His ODI story has, arguably, been even worse. His run since 2015 was so abysmal that he failed to score any significant amount of runs even against U.A.E. and Zimbabwe. He played against Australia eleven times in this duration and did not have a single fifty-plus score to show for. Perhaps his ODI average of 45.41 versus Sri Lanka helped his case for this series, but regardless, those matches were played before 2015.
Against other top sides, however, his batting average and strike rates have been seriously low for someone who once displayed a lot of promise in the shorter format.
So, in retrospect, does Akmal’s selection mean that Pakistan cricket has decided to turn back the clock and return to a time when their fans wanted to drive off a cliff because of their ludicrous selection decisions? Possibly.
Not a sure pick
Of course, a lot remains to be seen. Akmal has not become an official part of the team for the Sri Lankan series yet. However, his selection in the training camp might mean that other more deserving candidates lost a shot at a chance to prove themselves worthy of playing a much-depleted Sri Lankan opposition.
It is entirely possible that Akmal goes on to prove his critics completely wrong. Stranger things have happened in cricket. But if history is any indicator of future performances, Umar Akmal’s time, as someone who can bat productively at the international level, is done and dusted.