Although not flawless behind the stumps, Umar Akmal has hardly made the absence of a regular wicket-keeper felt during the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series against the West Indies.
Umar’s new role of a makeshift wicket-keeper came as a result of an improvisation made by the Iqbal Qasim-led selection committee after several experiments failed to yield desirable results.
The middle-order batsman has been satisfactory as a glovesman, securing eight dismissals – six catches and a couple of stumpings – from four ODIs and is ahead of his counterpart Johnson Charles who has four dismissals. The new role also brought a change in fortune for Umar’s batting that had let him down in the previous assignments.
Umar has regained form and scored a crucial 138 runs at an average of 69, including one half-century, as Pakistan lead the series 2-1.
However, elder brother Kamran, who is not a part of the team after being dropped due to poor performances, is not convinced with Umar’s new role.
“Pakistan need a regular wicket-keeper,” said Kamran, who has over 400 dismissals in all formats — the most by a Pakistani. “Yes, Umar is doing well so far as wicket-keeper. But the real test will come during pressure series like the one against South Africa. Then, the team will also have to play the World Twenty20 where his calibre will be tested.
“I will recommend him to focus on his batting and give his 100 % in that area.”
Kamran also advised the team management to give wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan a chance to prove his mettle.
“He is a good prospect. I believe he should be given the chance to prove himself.”
Recently, former head coach and chief selector Mohsin Khan criticised the management’s decision to play a makeshift wicket-keeper, calling it a ‘mistake’.
Happy with Umar’s performance: Moin Khan
Former captain and wicket-keeper Moin Khan, who was recently appointed chief selector, expressed satisfaction with Umar’s performance but agreed with Kamran. “Despite not being a regular wicket-keeper, Umar has done well,” he said. “But I believe a regular wicket-keeper should be a part of the team for the tour of Zimbabwe.”
Meanwhile, Moin’s fate as chief selector hangs in the balance as the Pakistan Cricket Board is awaiting detailed court orders that have reportedly overruled his appointment by ‘caretaker’ chairman Najam Sethi.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2013.