It has been said before, including in these editorial pages, and needs to be repeated: Kamran Akmal has to be dropped from the Pakistan cricket team. The wicketkeeper, in name if not deed, was the chief villain in our heavy loss to the Kiwis. He dropped centurion and man of the match Ross Taylor twice, once when he lazily refused to make an attempt to catch the ball when Taylor had yet to score and then, just two balls later, when he dropped the simplest of chances. At this point, Akmal’s continued presence in the team is a mystery on par with all the unexplained political assassinations in Pakistan. The equation is simple: If Pakistan is to win the World Cup, Akmal has to go.
The shoddy performance against the Kiwis has confirmed that there are a couple of other changes that need to be made. Abdul Razzaq, who scored a half-century but gave away nearly 12 runs an over, is in the team as a batsman, not a bowler. Yet he continues to bat at number eight in the order. He needs to be moved up a place or two, Shahid Afridi needs to open the batting and Wahab Riaz needs to be brought in to bolster the bowling attack. This will require Afridi to operate out his comfort zone but as the skipper that is his duty to the team.
These changes aside, now is not the time to be panicking. Just a week ago, this same team was being feted for defeating Sri Lanka. The format of the World Cup is such that we are allowed the occasional slip up. Qualification to the quarter-finals is still all but guaranteed. Sure, losing to New Zealand, a team we usually beat, was unexpected. But the Pakistani team should use this as a wake-up call to put in more consistent performances for the remainder of the tournament. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Pakistani cricket teams are as suited to consistency as Akmal is to wicket keeping. If we progress further in the World Cup, it is going to be a bumpy and exhilarating ride.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2011.