May 26, 2017

The dramatic and colourful life of Umar Akmal

It's never a dull moment if you're the youngest Akmal brother
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The ups and downs of Umar Akmal

Pakistan's enfant terrible Umar Akmal finds his career stalling once more after being sent home from the Champions Trophy squad in England for failing a fitness test. It isn't his first infraction, and only the cheeriest optimist would imagine it to be the last. What makes Akmal's discipline problems stand out isn't just their sheer frequency, but the innovative ways he has devised to land himself in trouble. On his 27th birthday, we look at the high and lows of a volatile career.

The arrival
August 2009: In just his third ODI, a 19-year old Umar scored an unbeaten 102 off 72 balls against Sri Lanka. It was an innings of such devastating hitting and brash self-confidence that it had experts and fans alike gushing about how far this boy could go. Eight years on, it remains his only ODI hundred against a Full Member. It's easy to forget he was compared to Virat Kohli at the time, who, despite being two years older than Umar, was yet to reach three figures in ODI cricket. In the subsequent eight years, Umar managed only one more hundred - against Afghanistan. Kohli has 27.

Umar Akmal on his way to a century on debut in Dunedin © Getty Images

A boy wonder?
November 2009: Umar announced himself to the world on Test debut in Dunedin, worlds removed - in more ways than one - from the dust bowls of Lahore. So green was the wicket at the start of the game, you would have been hard-pressed to differentiate it from the outfield. He scored 129 and 75 while only one other Pakistan batsman managed a half-century. Inzamam's heir? A younger Younis? An Akmal worth appreciating?

Bros before selectors
April 2010: Umar's first foray into trouble. After Kamran Akmal's disastrous performance behind the stumps in Sydney, he was dropped for the following Test. Umar, still only five Tests old, was alleged to have feigned an injury in a bid to skip the third Test in protest at his brother being dropped. He eventually played, but was fined and placed on a six-month probation by the PCB.

A Test hiatus
September 2011: The last time Umar played a Test match for Pakistan. Having started so brightly in Dunedin, he ended up with a whimper in Bulawayo. Pakistan, who usually go to and fro on pretty much every selection call, have been strangely decisive about not giving Umar another shot at Test cricket. If it is to teach him a lesson, they might need a better teacher.

Akmal with his team-mates at the 2016 World T20 © IDI/Getty Images

The gloves are off
October 2012: During the World T20 semi-final against Sri Lanka, Umar called for a change of gloves, and no amount of dissuading from Rod Tucker and Simon Taufel would deter him. The match referee, Jeff Crowe, took a dim view, slapping a Level 2 charge on the then 22-year old and fining him half of his match fee.

I'm unstoppable
February 2014: Living life in the fast lane sounds like fun. Being booked under Section 186, 279 and 353 of the Pakistan Penal Code not so much. But those were precisely the consequences Umar faced after being pulled over for rash driving. He didn't appreciate it, apparently assaulting a police officer and tearing his uniform. He was arrested and released on bail 12 hours later.

A rude shock
April 2015: After a disappointing World Cup, Umar was left out of the tour to Bangladesh. It was a sobering reality check for the talented batsman, who, despite his Test absence, had been a regular feature in Pakistan's limited-overs sides, mainly due to occasional explosions of talent, not least for an electric 94 in a World T20 win against Australia the previous year. As sobering reality checks go, Pakistan received one themselves too, finding themselves consigned to a limited-overs mauling, with Bangladesh winning all three ODIs and the one-off T20I. Sitting out that series suddenly didn't seem so bad after all.

Do I look like a troublemaker to you? © IDI/Getty Images

Pooping the party
November 2015: Hyderabad isn't renowned as Pakistan's fun capital. Therefore, when you get an opportunity to enjoy yourself in that neck of the woods, you take it. That, at least, was Umar's philosophy when he attended a party while he was there playing against Hyderabad for Sui Gas Pipelines: not a glamour fixture even by the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy's slipping standards. He hadn't received permission from the PCB to go to the party, which, apparently, he required. The board responded with a level of deep symbolism no one knew it possessed, dropping the youngster and calling up 39-year old batsman Rafatullah Mohmand. After all, he's not so likely to prance off to many parties, is he?

Forgo the logo
January 2016: Here's old Sui Gas again. It turned out Sui Gas players are allowed to wear one specific logo on their uniforms, but in a game against United Bank Limited, Umar was sporting a different one. The PCB, who was never likely to approve of Umar's fashion choices anyway, responded by banning him for a T20 match against New Zealand. If that sounds harsh, it was supposedly necessary because this was the third time Umar had "abused cricket equipment or clothing", as the PCB's code of conduct rather prudishly described it. But after Umar appealed, the ban was suspended and he did go on to play the T20.

I demand an encore
April 2016: Umar, apparently, got himself involved in a brawl in a Faisalabad theatre. If you thought that sentence was random, wait for this one: the reason for his annoyance was the theatre's refusal to repeat a dance performance that he had requested. Umar responded by telling the media to judge him only on his performances on the field. Having scored 188 runs in his last nine innings, you wouldn't have thought it was his best move.

A questioning spirit
May 2017: And finally, a classic he said/she said dispute. Umar, captain of the Punjab team during the Pakistan Cup, was asked about team changes at the toss. He launched into an explanation of why Junaid Khan wasn't playing, expressing "surprise" and "shock"; he might as well have been talking to his psychiatrist. Junaid Khan, apparently too ill to play, had strength enough to sit bolt upright in his hotel room, and send in a video clarification, saying he had a case of food poisoning that Umar had known about all along. The PCB appeared to be none the wiser, and just fined them both.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nabeel on July 12, 2017, 9:46 GMT

    young usama mir is a miss.

  • Nabeel on July 12, 2017, 9:44 GMT

    junaid should have been awarded higher category.

  •   Qazi Hassan on May 30, 2017, 12:39 GMT

    Akmal brothers may not be the worst thing that happened to Pakistan cricket. Ilahi brothers might be worse then them.

  • imran on May 28, 2017, 20:03 GMT

    very poorly handed talented player. his records in t20 and odi are good. he is a cery good fielder too.

  • wmsyed5888333 on May 28, 2017, 8:34 GMT

    players like umer doesn't know how to handle success and the reason is lack of education and discipline. we should not compare him with legend kohli because what Kohli achieved its all because of his hard work ,sincerity with game.

  • pyromania84 on May 27, 2017, 20:15 GMT

    he is useless lets give a deserving youngster a chance

  • Mujahid on May 27, 2017, 19:59 GMT

    I fail to understand..is this guy the only talent in pakistan? He have had already enough chances.....

  • Sammy K on May 27, 2017, 17:54 GMT

    It's all over for Umar Akmal. He is too full of himself to be of any use in a team sport. Comparing him Kohli is indeed a joke. Kohli is now a very measured, self assured Captain of his team. He always delivers whereas Akmal will score once in every 10 innings or so. PCB has given him too many opportunities already. This boy is determined to self-destruct and so just give him all the rope that he needs.

  • Ashok on May 27, 2017, 13:18 GMT

    Baring a dramatic turnaround, it would be safe to assume that Umar Akmal will go down as the Vinod Kambli of Pakistani cricket. The PCB took the right call in dropping him and he should be denied reselection unless he can conjure up a string of strong performances in domestic cricket. Its hard to imagine that Pakistan is so bereft of talent that a man who hasn't cemented his place after 8 years should enjoy preference over talented youngsters

  • FAROOQ on May 27, 2017, 13:05 GMT

    Give the guy a break. After all look at what other talented roly polys have achieved in the past: Ranataunga, Inzamam and David Boon to name a few!

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