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Opinion

Umar Akmal: Another wasted talent

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3rd May, 2020
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Pakistan cricket has witnessed many exciting talents who weren’t properly groomed to perform at the international stage.

One such natural talent was Umar Akmal, but unfortunately he didn’t utilise his talent to prove himself a world-class batsman.

He had represented Pakistan in the 2008 ICC under-19 World Cup. Based on his performances there, he had earnt his place in first-class cricket. His talent made it to the big screen when he smashed a double century in just the sixth first-class match.

He followed that up by smashing a century in his debut Test match against New Zealand, but no-one could have ever imagined this would be his last Test century.

In the early days of his career experts would compare him with Virat Kohli. Both had played in the ICC under-19 World Cup in 2008. Kohli made his debut in 2008, just a year before Akmal made his debut, but now Kohli is the captain of his team with 70 centuries and almost 22,000 international runs. Akmal has just three centuries to his name.

Umar Akmal takes off his helmet.

(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, File)

Only Akmal is responsible for this. He didn’t make the game his first priority. Kohli also dealt with some disciplinary issues, but he changed himself so that his game wasn’t affected. Akmal had no such transformation: he remained in controversy due to his bad behaviour and a ruthless attitude that badly affected his career.

His latest controversy led him to the three-year ban, which may end his career. The Pakistan Cricket Board found him guilty of two breaches of the anti-corruption code corresponding to him not reporting some fixing approaches ahead of the 2020 Pakistan Super League.

His first controversy came in 2010 when he reported a fake broken finger to show solidarity with brother Kamran Akmal, who was dropped from the Australia tour. In 2011 he was issued a show-cause notice for giving unauthorised interviews to television media.

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Many of his controversies didn’t involve corruption charges but rather simple disciplinary issues. He was also fined for ignoring umpires while going for a change of gloves in a T20 match against Sri Lanka. In 2015 he was left out of England T20s for bringing PCB into disrepute after reportedly attending a party without permission.

He has made several comebacks, but his discipline and attitude have always intervened in his career. He made an ODI comeback in 2016 and was left out of the England tour on disciplinary grounds. He was also withdrawn from the Champions Trophy squad for failing a fitness test.

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He was involved in a dispute against former coach Mickey Arthur that led to a ban. And just before the present fixing issue he was reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour at a fitness test.

All these controversies prove that the PCB has never been strict enough in its actions against players. They have brought back Mohammad Amir, who faced jail and five-year ban, and now some reports are claiming Sharjeel Khan could make a comeback in the national team.

If the PCB had taken some strict actions against fixers, Umar Akmal might not have gone down the path that’s led him to this bleak point in his career.

It was Umar Akmal who put himself above the game and wasted his exceptional talent. He has represented Pakistan in 16 Tests, 121 ODIs and 84 T20s in an almost 12-year career. This might be the end of his career, but it’s not the end he deserved when he made that brilliant debut all those years ago.