Monday, February 27, 2012

The Enigma of Umar Akmal Continues By Umer Rana

In the middle of batting collapses in summer of 09 in Sri Lanka, mercurial Pakistan’s batting line-up discovered its brightest prince at least of the last decade or so. The prince did announce himself at the grand stage, with a huge bang. With Kamran already in the side for quite some time, no one even thought that Umar will be overshadowed by the elder Akmal, even before making it into the side, Umar's talent was evident in A team’s tour of Australia whereby he absolutely thrashed the Aussies to score two hundreds. Australia has never been a romantic trip for the Pakistani top order, extra bounce and pace enforcing failures was almost written on the wall against top quality bowling attacks. This prolific show down under put him under the radar of the selection panel and it was not long before he was rushed into the deep waters of International Cricket. After a batting failure in 1st ODI in Sri Lanka, following a miserable series of painful collapses in three tests which brought a humiliating 2-0 series defeat, it became imperative for team management to try this wonder boy. The wonder boy did not disappointed even a single bit, just in 2nd innings at the big stage Umar was off the hook with a fifty, just to follow it up with a master class hundred in 3rd ODI coming at six with team once more in crisis. He thrashed Murli as if he were the king and Murli was still also a new comer to International Cricket. It did not end here, in the test debut he showed us the batting similar to that of Viv Richard's. In the, first innings he was as destructive and demoralizing for likes of veterans like Daniel Vettori, Bond and Martin as it can get. The 2nd innings were more composed and calm, showing the signs of great Inzi in a tough run chase.Where there is acceleration, there is deceleration, his form steadily faded away to a point where he was dropped off the Test side. Though there have been blitz in between two breath taking fifties in T20 WC in Caribbean and another similar quality innings, if not better, in Birmingham against Australia. In ODI’s there have been several innings of note but in Tests there have not been many noticeable ones after dream debut, failed badly in England and was dropped after a pathetic shot against South Africa. He did get a chance of redemption in Caribbean in Test Cricket last year, but he failed to make any sort of a positive impact. In Zimbabwe he again got a go but to no avail and after it until now he has been waiting for another chance in Test arena but that seems a fair bit distance away with Asad and Azhar grasping at the opportunities with both hands. 

Like his Test fortunes, his ODI form has also dipped which has been very sad to witness, he is such a talented player, just a glance at him batting gives you a feel of a very special thing in processing. To me, he is by far the most talented young player in the International scene; many would doubt and promptly shout the word “Kohli”. Kohli is also a special talent and has proved himself in the ODI games with his consistency. It is to be said that Kohli has successfully translated the talent into the performance but Umar is richer in the God gifted stokes. He on his day can absolutely grind any bowler in the tatter. It’s not lack of shots in Umar’s books, it’s the lack of the patience and wrong timings of these stokes which often brings him down. He certainly has to learn to bat in batting power play, he takes too much chance in as a result he is yet to bat out a full batting power play though he came perilously close against England in 2nd ODI which is real shame, talent of such a class is wasted. 

Partly Umar himself and partly team management are responsible for this gem's under-performance. First and foremost thing is, Umar has to change his attitude about batting, it’s not just about hitting a few sixes and missing one hence getting out, batting is much more than that, you have to give a minute of thinking to the situation and the bowler's technique. There must be some price on the wicket which is not at the moment on Umar’s wicket. This approach is very dangerous because if it continues like this, it will not be long before people start thinking of him in the same context as that of which they think of Afridi and his Test dream could be in real jeopardy. Being fearless is good but this fearless approach should not breech the carelessness. Team management has to play their part by sending him up the order. In limited overs version he must be given confidence to bat in top 4 which will be perfect for him because the art of building the innings is learnt by spending time at the wicket.

An article by Umer Rana.

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