Playing 53 Tests, 157 One Day Internationals and 58 T20s are normally good enough to grant someone a respectful position in their country. But Kamran Akmal is an exception. He is known more as an entertainer instead of his cricketing abilities.
A wicketkeeper who could bat a bit
Kamran Akmal, the eldest brother of his family was born on this day (1982) in the Lahore city of Punjab; albeit Pakistan’s Punjab. There are not many details available about Akmal’s childhood and how he grew up. However, it can be assumed with a certain degree of certainty that he was a talented player in his early years.
Standing at 168 meters tall, Akmal shocked everybody when he made his international debut at the age of 20. Pakistan chose Zimbabwe to try out a young wicketkeeper-batsman. Akmal’s Lusty blows and cracking square cuts through covers were some of his main trademarks.
Initially, Akmal was an old order wicketkeeper-batsman. He only used to play as a wicketkeeper who could bat a bit but could not be relied on for a specific batting role. This speaks volumes about Pakistan’s wicket-keeping dearth. Akmal made his debut when wicketkeepers like Gilchrist, Mark Boucher and Rahul Dravid were changing the dynamics; but Akmal’s debut initially sent negative signals about Pak’s prospects.
Promoting Akmal was a bad idea
Kamran was an unreliable but aggressive batsman. Pakistan decided to use him as a pinch hitter in limited over games. He was sent in to open the innings. During those days, India and Pakistan were playing one series every year. For Pakistan, Akmal seemed to be a great counter to ferocious Virendra Sehwag. Little did they know that Sehwag was not a pinch hitter.
Akmal did provide quickfire 20s, 30s or even 40s; but rarely could he convert his starts into big hundreds. This made it easy for Pakistani management to experiment with his batting positions.
One season and that’s all
Akmal made some big scores in early 2006. In a span of 180 days, he scored 7 centuries. That is still the highlight of his career. After 2006, Kamran saw an all-around fall with some signs of occasional brilliance in between.
Akmal’s poor batting show took down his wicket keeping as well. Due to poor keeping, he was dropped from the 2008 Asia cup, in favour of a new wicketkeeper from the U-19 squad. In 2009, Akmal’s experience saw him emerging as one of the key factors in Pakistan’s T20 world cup win. After that, Akmal has been in and out on a constant basis.
Akmal has been one of the epicentres of match-fixing debates in the cricketing world. In 2009, Akmal was heavily criticised for dropping three catches of Mr Cricket, Michael Hussey. These proved to be costly for Pakistan as Hussey and Peter Siddle (a fast bowler) went on to join in for a 133 run partnership.
Later, International Cricket Council (ICC) launched an investigation against Akmal and Rana Naved-ul-Hassan. For the period of investigation, Akmal was barred from selection to the squad.
Akmal’s wicket keeping was also a chink in his armour. His wicket-keeping was never consistent. In one session, you would watch him dive 6 ft further to grab a catch; next session Akmal will be found dropping a sitter coming towards him. Moreover, he was never able to fully communicate with the slip cordon.
Normally, when a ball floats towards the first slip, the fielder expects the keeper to Jump; but Akmal rarely did that. This was visible in Shoaib Akhtar’s last international match. Dropping sitters after sitters, Akmal came as a Santa Clause for Ross Taylor on his 26th birthday. Later, Shoaib Akhtar mocked him on Indian Television. Various other experts have also criticised him.
Later in his career, Akmal and his younger brother Umar became a meme material on the internet. One thing you cannot deny about Akmal is that without him, cricket is not entertaining (pun intended).