KARACHI: It seems that whosoever Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) engages to pick the national squads have a deep affection for the surname Akmal.
The selection of the ICC Champions Trophy squad by Inzamam-ul-Haq’s selection committee provides another example of this warmth for the Akmal clan as Umar replaces oldest sibling Kamran for the toughest one-day competition outside the World Cup.
Perhaps Inzamam—arguably one of the finest batsmen Pakistan ever produced who intimidated many a bowling line-ups—is smitten by the name Akmal, which means perfect, although there is nothing perfect about either Kamran or Umar as cricketers on most occasions and of late when it comes to representing Pakistan.
Kamran was rightly rewarded for an outstanding domestic season as well as a prolific Pakistan Super League outing when he was picked for the limited-overs leg of the West Indies tour.
But he wasted the golden opportunities afforded to him to cement his place after being recalled to the ODI side following a yawning gap of 45 months — he was declared a pariah from selection point-of-view since the last ICC Champions Trophy was held in England.
In four Tweny20 Internationals, the 35-year-old Kamran scored 22, 0, 48 and 20 while after making 47 in the first of three One-day Internationals he tailed off with 21 and a duck. He looked utterly perplexed during the Caribbean tour in the unaccustomed role of a fielder and missed a few catches as well, including a couple of dollies.
Compared to Kamran, the case of Umar is more infuriating. If occasional brushes with the Lahore traffic wardens earned Umar notoriety, then his alleged expedition to several spots where a ‘celebrity’ like him would definitely refrain from going has further tarnished his reputation.
Recalled to the national one-day side for the first time since the 2015 World Cup, Umar had a modest outing in Australia where he mustered 131 runs in five matches. The logic of his selection now seems baffling considering he wasn’t part of the West Indies tour.
If the criteria for Inzaman and company are the ongoing Pakistan Cup, then they have obviously made a big blunder in favouring Umar’s credentials since there are several other candidates who are more deserving than this tried and failed generally overrated 26-year-old right-hander.
Just imagine, the selectors have gone for Umar on the basis of only one significant score he made in the two Pakistan Cup appearances thus far. After getting out for a seven-ball duck in the first game, the Punjab captain hit a 75-ball 77 but again his side lost.
In stark contrast to Umar, the fit-again Haris Sohail, the talented 28-year-old with some pedigree merited a very strong case to be included for the Champions Trophy with scores of 56, 117 and 60 in three games for Federal Areas for the simple reason he would have been the second left-handed specialist batting option in the squad apart from Fakhar Zaman.