- By Saj Sadiq (2nd June, 2011) -
At the tender age of 21, Umar Akmal has already featured in 80 fixtures for Pakistan. An exciting and unpredictable batsman, Akmal has passed the half century mark on 20 occasions.
His aggressive approach to batting makes him one of the modern game’s most entertaining batsmen. Akmal has all the shots, but some would argue that he lacks the temperament to justify the talent that he possesses.
Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, Akmal spoke amongst other things of his World Cup heartache, his belief that he can become a regular in the lineup in all three formats of the game and his long term wish to bat at number four.
Pakistan’s defeat to India in the World Cup semi final at Mohali was heartbreaking for their fans around the world, and we asked Umar if he had got over the defeat to arch rivals India.
“We played some wonderful cricket at the World Cup. Nobody expected us to reach the semi finals, but we all pulled together and worked hard as a unit. The coach, the management, the captain and all the players really deserve a lot of praise for their efforts. We wanted to prove the critics wrong and take the trophy back to Pakistan, for the people of Pakistan and all Pakistanis around the world. But it wasn’t meant to be, although nobody can say that the match was entirely one sided. We did our best, but it wasn’t good enough on the day.”
“It was a great opportunity for Pakistan cricket to show the world what we can achieve and these opportunities don’t come around too often. Our bowlers didn’t start too well, their line wasn’t great, but they fought back well and pulled things back. Our openers did a decent job also and we were in a good position and we should have won the match against India.”
Pakistan’s trip to the West Indies saw the tourists win the one day series and draw the test series, with Akmal scoring 166 runs at an average of 41.50 in the two test matches and seventy one runs at an average of 35.50 in the four one day internationals that he featured in.
Akmal though felt that the tour could have gone much better for him and in an honest assessment stated that “I felt the tour could have gone better for me. I’m not entirely satisfied with my performance in the Caribbean, but then again not totally unhappy with it. It was an average tour but I need to move on and look ahead to the future.”
Akmal’s attacking approach in all formats has left some observers of the game thinking that he is more suited to the shorter versions of cricket, but he doesn’t agree with that assessment.
“Test cricket is the pinnacle for any cricketer. One day and Twenty over cricket are also very popular but test cricket is the real deal. Test cricket is where I really want to make my name and that format of the game is where I feel I can achieve the most. I want to improve my record in test cricket and become a better test batsman. I’ve only played 15 tests and am still learning the game but I feel I can definitely make great strides in the longer format of the game and show my worth and prove to everyone that I have the skill and temperament to play five day cricket. Test cricket has changed over the years and scoring rates are much quicker, matches are finishing quicker, but that does not mean that a reckless approach is necessary. My approach will always be positive and if I see a bad ball I will always try to hit it to the boundary, but my main objective is to bat according to the team’s requirement at that time.”
Akmal’s position in the batting order has been the cause of much debate, with many fans and writers feeling that he should be batting higher up the order especially in 50 over and 20 over cricket. Akmal himself feels that his favoured batting position is number four, but that he needs to convince others that he can bat at that position.
“I feel that the number four spot is ideal for me and I am trying to do well lower down the order with a view to maybe being promoted up the batting order, but I need to win over the captain, coach and management and convince them that I am responsible enough to bat at number four. However I’m grateful that I am in the team and would bat at whatever position the team requires.”
Akmal’s critics though have felt that since his introduction to international cricket, he has not batted with the responsibility and the authority that is required at this level. However, Akmal’s belief is that the aggression needs to be controlled in future and the positive approach needs to be managed carefully.
“Nobody feels worse than I do when I play an irresponsible shot. Walking back to the pavilion is hard enough after playing a poor shot, but then having to sit there and thinking about the shot you have just played is really tough, especially when the wicket is a good batting track. I want to play positive cricket, but need to realise that there is a difference between being positive and being irresponsible.”
Akmal’s confident approach to his cricket has been regarded by some as brash, but Akmal is of the opinion that his approach to international cricket is exactly the same as his club cricket.
“I’m not one of those players who let nerves effect them, or feel a lot of pressure. My approach is the same in international cricket as it is when I play club cricket in Model Town, Lahore, or for my domestic team SNGPL. I play my cricket hard, but try not to let pressure affect my performance.”
“Some would say that it is being overconfident, but that’s just the way I am. I really started believing in myself after the successful tour of Australia with the Pakistan “A” side. After that tour and with the help and advice from the likes of Basit Ali, Zaheer Abbass and Abdul Qadir I feel I have improved as a cricketer. After my first two years in domestic cricket, Abdul Qadir identified me as someone with potential and picked me for the Pakistan “A” side and I will forever be thankful to Abdul Qadir for giving me the opportunity. I’m grateful that I have the blessings of my family behind me and I know that I can succeed in anything in life with those blessings.”
Akmal is one of several fresh young batting talents around the world that are adding glitz to international cricket and there are comparisons with Indian batsman Virat Kohli. But he feels that he doesn’t need to compete with any other batsman or attempt to copy any other current or former player.
“People can compare me with anyone they want to, it doesn’t make any difference to me. I only look to one person for inspiration in my batting and that is my brother Kamran. I watch his batting closely as I have done over the years. I have my own style, so making comparisons with anyone else is pointless in my view.”
Looking ahead to a period of rest for the majority of Pakistani cricketers, Akmal stated that “I’m looking forward to some time with my family, some rest as it’s been a hectic few months. I want to continue my training though and want to lose some weight, as I feel I have put on weight recently. Make no mistake I will be ready for the next tour, and in top shape both mentally and physically. I want to thank all of the fans around the world for their continued support and hope that they will continue to back me and pray for me in the coming days, months and years.”No. of Views:275