There is an old saying that goes something like “Success has many fathers, whereas failure is an orphan." Never has that saying been more relevant than in the case of Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper who has become the orphan of Pakistan cricket in the wake of the heartbreaking loss to Australia in the recent SCG test.
The diminutive gloveman has, perhaps unfairly, borne the brunt of the blame for the loss. Certainly, the four dropped catches didn’t help his team’s cause, nor did his bungled run-out opportunity.
He is certainly having a tough time of things at the moment, but to be calling for his head after one ordinary performance seems a bit tough.
In the early days of his career, Akmal was widely lauded for his keeping ability. But his form has slowly slipped, with the rot setting in after continuing to play with an injured finger in England in 2006.
Still, he’s not the first keeper who has held his place due to his prowess with the bat rather than his skill with the gloves—does anyone remember Alec Stewart or Geraint Jones?
The big problem is that if, as a wicketkeeper, you can’t read what your team’s strike spinner is bowling then you really aren’t going to be much good to your side. The truly great keepers, such as Alan Knott, Ian Healey, or Wally Grout, had a sixth sense for what their bowlers were doing—Akmal closes his eyes and hopes.
While Akmal’s flaws are there for all to see, to blame him alone for Pakistan’s loss in Sydney is manifestly unjust. Pakistan were chasing a paltry 176 against an Aussie attack that is arguably the weakest to take the field in nearly two decades. The batsmen must also shoulder some blame.
Captain Mohammad Yousuf has put his hand up for his part in the collapse. He described the shot that claimed his wicket (and nearly Hauritz's life!) as pathetic. He was not, however, alone in the injudicious shot stakes.
Pakistan has played quality cricket since arriving in Australia. They are still fragile, but there are many positive signs, and they shouldn’t be lost in the disappointment surrounding this one loss.
That’s not to say that change isn’t necessary, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater (to choose a random cliché). Sadly for Akmal, however, not everything can be ignored.
Catches and stumpings off spinners are far too valuable to squander through poor technique and, as such, it is probably time for Akmal to have a rest and give young Sarfraz Ahmed a go.
Akmal needs to spend some time with Moin Khan and Rashid Latif to tidy up his technique, soften his hands, and fight his way back into the test side.
The talent is certainly there, he just needs to find it again. Let’s hope, for his sake, that he can.