It’s time for Umar Akmal to justify his talent | Pakistan Today

It’s time for Umar Akmal to justify his talent

There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the Pakistani batting line-up after the T20s against Sri Lanka, but it’s clear both sides found scoring runs a challenge as experienced batsmen struggled throughout and bowlers dominated proceedings.
With respect to the 1-1 result, both teams should be happy but the matches also highlighted issues for the teams, which must be addressed.
The concerns for the Pakistan think-tank should revolve around the introduction of a front-line batsman for the forthcoming series against Australia, after the tour of Sri Lanka. I would suggest Asad Shafiq or Nasir Jamshed be reintroduced for the T20 starting lineup, Aamir Sohail said.
Another front-line seam bowler is also required and the Pakistani selection committee, coach and captain should be considering this when going forward. Pakistan must identify these resources in order to become a formidable T20 side and will need to act accordingly if they want to feel confident going into the T20 World Cup.
I was a little surprised Umar Gul wasn’t selected for the second T20 match against Sri Lanka but it must have been a considered decision by the team management.
With Pakistan winning the potentially series-losing match, it actually turned out to be a very good decision and is one of the reasons I feel Pakistan needs to include another front-line seamer in subsequent T20 squads.
Umar Akmal needs to perform. In the past, his inexperience at the international level has shielded him from criticism but he’s been around a few years now and is still wasting good starts. If I could speak to him, I wouldn’t give him a long lecture on the intricacies of batting. I would say just one thing “Umar Akmal, you have to justify your talent, it is time you justified your talent.”
How can he achieve this? The answer lies in the age-old cricketing mantra of a batsman focusing on occupying the crease. There are many players who have immense talent but fail at the highest level simply because they cannot translate the application of that talent to the rigours of international cricket. I would suggest he think deeply about his batting, cutting down on the number of strokes he tries to play and focusing on a few key scoring areas.
I see a lot of parallels between Umar Akmal and the great Javed Miandad in this respect, who also had the ability to play every shot in the book. However, when Javed toured Australia and the West Indies, he realised relying purely on boundaries to score against top class bowling was not a viable option. Instead he built innings’ on singles and twos, supplemented by the occasional boundary. You have to learn to manoeuvre the length of the ball and that’ll help to maintain a very healthy average as will reducing reliance on boundaries.
Umar Akmal has the talent to succeed, but his shot selection is suspect. For example, Malinga is Sri Lanka’s premier bowler and it’s well known that the Sri Lankan captain will bring him on at the crucial stages of a match to take wickets. As a batsman, you need to understand the situation, show due respect to the bowler and decide not to give away your wicket away, instead opt for singles and twos and target other weaker bowlers.
If Umar doesn’t learn quickly, there is stiff competition developing with Asad Shafiq, who is playing well, along with a few other players who have come on to the scene. This competition should give Umar some food for thought and provide him with motivation for self-analysis.
There is an old Urdu saying which roughly translates to “a person learns how to sing a classical song [difficult form of music], has a good voice but just can’t remember the lyrics!” If a person can’t remember the lyrics, how will he sing the song? That’s the problem with Umar Akmal – he knows how to sing, but can’t remember the lyrics!
Umar Akmal has played under a number of coaches – Waqar Younis, Mohsin Khan and now Dav Whatmore and the development of a player like Akmal is where a coach has the real opportunity to prove his credentials. The new coach has to look into Umar’s technique very closely and understand why he is not developing that ability to manoeuvre the length and place the ball into the gaps to keep picking up singles.
Dav must identify the specifics of what is wrong with Umar – is his bottom hand too rounded or tight? Or is it his top hand? Does he shuffle around the crease too much? These are the kind of questions that must be addressed in detail. Despite the intricacies of batting, I personally would offer just one piece of advice to Akmal and that would be to occupy the crease – give yourself at least 20 overs in a One Day game or Test match and seven overs in a T20 game before trying those cheeky and risky shots.
Ahmed Shehzad is not dissimilar to Umar Akmal. He was thrown out of the side after the T20 World Cup in 2009, made a comeback at the end of 2010 and was subsequently selected for the World Cup in 2011 after which he was dropped again. He looks like he’s learnt a lesson and it’ll be interesting to see if it lasts.
Nasir Jamshed is nursing an injury at the moment and he has made his mark and there are other opening options too. With this new approach however, Ahmed Shehzad can cement his place in the side – he’s looking more compact and not trying to play every shot in the book by reigning himself in. However, if he carries on with the issues which resulted in his previous ousting from the side, then he will again have a problem.
Looking forward to the Tests and ODIs against Sri Lanka, Pakistan will be strengthened by the inclusion of the trio of Misbah ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq and the batting looks dependable. Pakistan of course have a very very strong bowling line-up. Whilst Sri Lanka have a strong batting line-up, but their bowling resources are thin. As a result, I believe Pakistan have a very strong opportunity to win both the one day and Test series.

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