Kamran Akmal battling to keep his place in Pakistan squad

Friday, November 2, 2007

KARACHI: When Kamran Akmal features in the away series against India he would be walking on thin ice. The 25-year-old wicket-keeper, once hailed as one of the brightest young talents in the cricketing world, will actually be battling to keep his place on the Pakistan squad in the series that begins with the first of the five one-dayers in the eastern Indian city of Guwahati on November 5.

A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official confided in ‘The News’ that Akmal is almost certain to be ‘rested’ for the five-match ODI series against visiting Zimbabwe next month. In Pakistan cricket’s dictionary ‘rested’ is quite often a polite word for ‘dropped’.

In case Akmal fails to give a better show behind the stumps in India, he will have to face the axe for the Zimbabwe series. The selectors have already marked young wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed to replace Akmal in the one-day series against the Zimbabweans.

Sarfraz, 20, is a talented wicket-keeper and a useful middle-order batsman, who has proved his worth at the junior level by leading Pakistan to a title-winning triumph in the previous Junior World Cup.

Most experts believe he is ready to join the big league. Akmal, meanwhile, has been singled out by critics as one of the villains behind Pakistan’s back-to-back series defeats in Tests and ODIs in their own backyard against South Africa. He dropped Jaques Kallis on 36 in the opening Test against the Proteas in Karachi last month and the master batsman went on to score a match-winning 155.

Later in the ODI series-decider in Lahore last week, Kallis went on to score a valuable 86 after being dropped at 2 off Shoaib Akhtar. South African won the match to claim the series 3-2.
“Akmal is a talented player but we cannot go on with him like this. There has to be a solid replacement wicket-keeper because it’s a very crucial position,”
said the official.

After a promising start to his international career, Akmal has been going through a lean patch of form that worsened in England last summer when he dropped catches regularly. The Lahore-born player continued his poor form when the Pakistan toured South Africa this January as he struggled behind the stumps during the best part of the series.

Akmal has played 37 Tests, scored 1695 runs at 30.81 besides having 113 catches and 19 stumpings. He has scored 1340 runs at 24.81 from 73 ODI appearances with 63 catches and 11 stumpings.

Pakistan chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed, however, defends Akmal saying that the player is going through a lean patch and will soon be back in full flow.
“I’m sure he (Akmal) will recover because he is a talented and hard-working player,”
he said.

But Salahuddin, a former Pakistan Test player, conceded that the national team needs a good wicket-keeper on the bench.
“International cricket has become too hectic and sometimes a player really needs rest,”
he pointed out.

Salahuddin said that the selectors have noticed Sarfraz and believe that the youngster has the credentials to graduate to Test cricket.
“Sarfraz is young and talented and it seems he has a bright future.”
He said that selecting Sarfraz for the ODI series against Zimbabwe will certainly be an option when the selectors sit down to the pick the squad for the one-dayers.

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