Home > Features >

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014: Umar Akmal must bat up the order

Umar Akmal should be utilised well to get the best out of his prodigious talent © Getty Images
Umar Akmal should be utilised well to get the best out of his prodigious talent © Getty Images

By Umer Rana

Umar Akmal burst onto the scene in international cricket when the Pakistan side was in a catastrophic phase plagued with problems ranging from rumoured rebellions and groupism to allegations of fixing. It was a mini flash black of the 1990s, where captaincy kept changing hands with allegations of match-fixing and rebellions in the backdrop. Akmal forced his way into the debris of one of the most colossal batting order in the history of Pakistan cricket, on the back of a successful tour of Australia with the ‘A’ side. Akmal had a walloping start in the international cricket with a ton in only his third game, where he butchered Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga — with a dash of authority that was missing for some time. In Test cricket, it was an even better start with the awe-inspiring ton on debut against a Shane Bond-led attack in tricky conditions. In the second innings, he gave hope of a Test victory with his breathtaking strokeplay. A star was born for Pakistan. But, Akmal has only shown glimpses of brilliances since then and hasn’t been as consistent as Pakistan hoped he would.

With passage of time, Akmal’s stroke play became even more enterprising, his form jittered and those moments of madness with the bat became more frequent — which left critics irked and the fans flummoxed. Despite all that, he remains Pakistan’s most prodigious batting talent. Before Akmal, Imran Nazir was one such batsman who dazzled with his audacious strokeplay. If anyone comes anywhere close to AB de Villiers’ illustrious range of strokeplay, it has to be  Akmal and certainly, he is the most gifted young batsman in the world. That statement might raise plenty of eyebrows but being naturally gifted is one thing, translating that talent to performances is a different ball game. Virat Kohli has done that.

There are of course those flashes of brilliance. His performances can range from bewilderingly magnificent to obnoxiously scrappy — depending on which side of bed he gets up on any given day. Obviously, he is himself responsible for his enigmatic career, but batting lower down the order has done him no good. In his whole career, Akmal has batted only four times in the top four and just once at the No 3 spot, that too happened when the openers batted until the 37th over. Especially, in the last three years under Misbah-ul-Haq, he has been bumped to the No 6 spot to be that finisher. At that spot, you either have to attack when you get the chance or consolidate once wickets have fallen at regular intervals. Micheal Bevan and MS Dhoni have mastered those roles and they are undoubtedly the all-times greats in One-Day Internationals (ODIs).

Waqar Younis’ tenure as coach ended in 2011 and thereafter Akmal never looked like making it back to the Test side. It looked as if he was dubbed a limited overs specialist. Instead of grooming players, it seems to be an easier option to stereotype them. De Villiers is an apt example of the development of an immensely gifted batsman. He started off by opening the batting and one cannot go all guns blazing in those conditions in South Africa. That experience made de Villiers realize the importance of getting in before unleashing his array of shots. Though he has moved down the order later in his Test career, he has shown remarkable consistency in the format.

So, batting up in the top order in ODIs is the best thing that can happen to Akmal. That would take off the added pressure on him, which burdens him every time he goes out to bat at say No 6. By coming at No 4, he will be settled at the crease most of the times before the slog overs and he could make them count — something he did against Afghanistan in the last Asia Cup, where he blazed his way to 100 from 50 in a mere six overs. Most importantly, Pakistan cricket has to show patience with Akmal for he plays so many shots and there bound to be occasions when it doesn’t come off. But, when he gets it right, he presents an exciting option. It seemed as if the managements in the past tried to curb his strokes and aggression. The methods that work with Misbah will not necessarily work for Akmal. So, it will advisable to send him at top of the order with the freedom to express himself.

Recently, Waqar came back into the mix again and sanity prevailed right away. Akmal got back into the Test squad for the first time in nearly three years. In the first ODI against Sri Lanka, Akmal was slotted at No 4 as Waqar kept on suggesting in his commentary stints for a long time. Surely, Waqar has started with the steps in the right direction but he also must find a place to fit him into the Test side. Surely, it would be ridiculous to halt the development of the brightest talent in the country for sake of waiting for Misbah or a Younis Khan to hang up their boots.

(Umer Rana is an Electrical Engineer who graduated from NUST. A club cricketer from Islamabad, he fell in love with the beautiful game at the tender age of six. Wasim Akram’s Pakistan’s road to the marvelous triumph in the 1997 World Series, is his first cricketing memory. He is always up for a chat about cricket, captaincy and tactics)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Centurion

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014 (16:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch

More

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 14, 2014  at Sharjah

Pakistan won by 147 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 13, 2014  at Pallekele

Sri Lanka won by 90 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 12, 2014  at Sharjah

New Zealand won by 4 wkts

Photos

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane

Videos

Steven Smith appointed Australia captain

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: David Warner falls after brisk start

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal: How can cricket eliminate the howler?

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Maiden wickets, an elusive ton, and other highlights from Day 1

Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane guide India to 311/4 against Australia on Day 1 of 1st Test at Brisbane

Australia India Interviews Ishant Sharma Moments in history Ravichandran Ashwin South Africa

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: David Warner dismissed by Umesh Yadav

Shane Warne receives flak for calling Mitchell Starc “soft”

Josh Hazlewood’s 5-wicket haul on debut helps Australia bowl India out for 408 at lunch on Day 2 of 2nd Test at Brisbane

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma planning to move in together

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: Josh Hazlewood dismisses MS Dhoni, takes 5 wickets on debut

Murali Vijay continues to make impressive progress against Australia

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal: How can cricket eliminate the howler?

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Maiden wickets, an elusive ton, and other highlights from Day 1

Chamundeswaranath caught Balasubramaniam bowled Ananthapadmanabhan

Sri Lanka vs England, 7th ODI at Colombo: Tillakaratne Dilshan’s all-round performance and other highlights

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

653 Posts | 10 Fans

India vs Australia: Murali Vijay's 144, Video highlights

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here