Natural flair and unbelievable talent, were attributes used by former cricketers and experts to describe Umar Akmal when he first made his debut in international cricket. Hailed as the find of the decade; a lot was expected of Umar Akmal. Many people were calling him the next great batsman from the country. Yet, what could have been a promising career went downhill after a few sparks of brilliance. His supporters would point out to the fact that he was never given a chance to bat higher up in the order. One can also argue that the position of a wicket keeper was enforced upon him which unfavorably affected; his batting form. Likewise, poor handling and inconsistent selection; is another reason why many people believe Umar Akmal failed to achieve his true potential. Despite all these arguments It’s hard not to find Umar Akmal in the news for all the wrong reasons. Looking at Akmal’s career now, it is clear that his off-field activities have eclipsed his batting talent.
Umar now finds himself in the middle of a public spat with Mickey Arthur. The right-hand batsman has claimed that Arthur didn’t allow him to use the facilities at the National Academy. In a more serious allegation, Akmal has also complained about the fact that Mickey Arthur insulted him in front of Inzamam Ul Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed. All these claims were made during a press conference with the media. Two days after the press conference, in a series of tweets; Umar Akmal made further accusations against the head coach. He claimed the entire fitness fiasco before the champions trophy was staged to drop him from the squad. According to Akmal, his presence in the side was threatening the position of Azhar Ali and Mohammed Hafeez. Umar Akmal clearly feels that the team management has conspired against him. Despite Akmal’s feelings, however, the truth is that he himself is responsible for his own position.
It all started during the Pakistan tour of Australia in 2010. During the tour, Umar Akmal tried to feign an injury as a protest for dropping his brother from the squad. Yet, when there was talk of dropping him from the ODI squad; Akmal miraculously recovered from injury. His irrational behavior worsened when he was charged for misbehaving with a police officer after violating traffic rules in 2014. In between, he had already lost his place in the test side due to lack of consistency. His ODI prospects were equally bleak as rarely he was topping the scoreboards or winning the games for the team. The lowest point of his career though was the 2015 World Cup. After scoring a brilliant fifty against England in the warm up game, fans were expecting him to deliver for the team. Sadly, after a string of poor performances he found himself out of the ODI squad on the recommendation of the head coach Waqar Younis. Few fans remember Pakistan’s campaign of the 2016 T20 world cup. But most of them will remember Umar Akmal asking Imran Khan to promote his case of batting higher up in the order. Even when Umar was promoted up in the batting order, his innings against New Zealand sucked the life out of the match. Some strong words from Waqar Younis meant that Umar Akmal lost his position in all three formats of the game. In the meantime, a question mark remained over Akmal’s off field behavior. He found himself involved in more controversies which damaged his prospects as a cricketer.
His entire career up until this point shows why he couldn’t achieve greatness. Ever since Umar made a century on test debut, expectations were extremely high. But since then Akmal only managed to perform in patches. It was the lack of consistency that always held him back. His lack of ability to perform in crunch situations or big matches was another aspect of his game which withheld him. A good example of this is how he gave his wicket away in the semifinal of 2011, and the quarterfinal of the 2015 world cup. He crumbled under the weight of expectations when his team needed him the most. Cricketers are made through their performances in big games but in such situations, Akmal had the tendency to underperform. His batting problems combined with his fitness issues meant that it was only a matter of time before he would be relegated to lesser importance. With the emergence of Babar Azam and other young batsmen, the coaching staff no longer feels Akmal deserves their attention. While this article in no way is meant to endorse Mickey Arthur’s behavior; Umar Akmal’s decision to make the issue public is demeaning no one else but him. Regardless of all the opposition, had Akmal silenced his critics with the bat, he could have regained his place in the squad.
At the end of the day, no bowler in world cricket troubled Umar Akmal. He was more troubled by the tendency to give his wicket away. The same is true for his entire career. Umar wasn’t troubled by the team management or his batting positions. All these aspects would have changed had he been able to deliver in the ground. But like in the case of his batting, so far Umar Akmal has given his own career away.