Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 3rd day December 28, 2009

Pakistan hopes rest on young shoulders

Pakistan must have many more moments with Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer at the centre if they are to stand a chance in the series.

Finally the teeth were bared and, though it may be too late for them to make an impression here, it could yet prove a worthwhile baring. Pakistan must have many more moments with Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer at the centre if they are to stand a chance in the series.

The long-standing beauty of Pakistan cricket has been their faith in youth. It does not always last as long as it should, but is enough for them to throw them in without questions, where other nations tend to wait and miss the moment. In other spheres Pakistan is very rigidly structured with utmost deference to seniority of age and experience, but from the days of Kardar, their cricket has been comfortable with chancing it on teenaged sensations.

Though they haven't suffered for it, Australia haven't brought enough young players into their national side, recently at least. Ricky Ponting made that point pre-Test, about how good it feels to have someone young around the squad. His Pakistani counterparts have always appreciated the central beauty of youth - that it knows no fear or doubt. It has little experience of either. It is forever pumped and perky, and its shoulders don't often droop, burdened or haunted by the years.

So was Umar Akmal, undaunted by his first meeting with the Australians, his first innings at the MCG. He has not known past failure against them; in fact he has probably been too pumped and excited at the prospect of playing. And it showed during his fifty which continued a remarkable entry into international cricket.

It reaffirmed all that is refreshing about him, as bracing as the Melbourne air these days. He was solid and correct when he needed to be at the start of the morning. He didn't wilt when struck flush on the helmet by Peter Siddle. He was braver still to unleash the most audacious bout of stroke-making against the same man a few overs later; the pulled six pleased the crowds, but the easy loft over mid-on two balls earlier from outside off was the stroke of a boy blessed. Crowds here are demanding but they appreciate a battle no matter where it comes from and Umar's contribution was duly noted.

They bestowed similar appreciation upon Aamer later in the afternoon, when he took it upon himself to rattle Australia's top order. What has been most impressive about him is the manner in which he has taken to international cricket; history probably records some ducks taking to water with more difficulty. He has taken to all three formats with aplomb, knowing instantly where and how to bowl. One of the deepest impressions from the World Twenty20 was his calculated dismantling of Tillakaratne Dilshan with the short ball in the final's opening over.

He didn't quite dismantle Ricky Ponting with the short ball here - it is doubtful whether that is even possible of such a complete puller - but he certainly engaged him and the crowd in a wonderful battle. Twice he drew false pulls and just when it seemed he had overdone it, as Ponting dismissed him in front of midwicket, he got him pulling to deep square leg. The joust with Shane Watson was doubly compelling, for by now he was hitting and sustaining some serious pace, reaching speeds which he hasn't before hit. A little kiss, a few words, many bouncers and appeals; these are small things but they go a long way in Australia and they are loved by all.

It is another thing that Pakistan haven't always utilized their youth effectively. There is forever a fear that seniors try to run down successful youngsters and many selectors have publicly backed youth while privately grumbling about it. There is a sense developing right now that Umar's spirits may be clipped because of his rasher dismissals and Mohammad Yousuf seems to get frustrated too readily with Aamer's less disciplined spells.

Pakistan have traditionally had little patience for the foibles of youth and there will always be foibles; the list of discarded, dumped and broken young men is far too long in Pakistan. But every effort must be made to ensure these two names do not appear on that list.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aaron on December 29, 2009, 1:54 GMT

    You need to look closely at what Umar did in New Zealand. In his maiden innings he came out when his team were in trouble, everyone before him had been playing with suffocating caution but he threw off the shackles and changed the course of the game, quickly getting to 100. For his second innings Vettori set fields to tempt him, thinking that he would go beserk again but instead Umar played with much more caution as befitted the situation at that time. To be able to play at such different tempos is a sign of maturity and for him to not be caught up in the fearful approach that seemed to grip the batsmen of both sides (except for Ross Taylor) surely says something. And yes, on one occiasion at least, Umar was subjected to a non-stop monologue from his captain the entire time he was batting with him - presumably Yousuf was lecturing around the theme of caution, but it was him that got out soon after and not Umar.

  • Burhanuddin on December 29, 2009, 1:38 GMT

    David, did you even watch the match? "First inning wicketless", not if that catch had been taken and the situation could have been entirely different. "Aussies were trying for quick runs" First few overs were maiden, katich got caught behind not for trying to get runs faster, ponting pulled as usual and Hussey couldn't see the ball. "More careful mode, he never looked like taking a wicket again" I wish if you have watched the match and see how lucky both watson and clarke were to escape the new young talent. And time proved that he is a great talent as he takes his first 5 against the big Aussies. Good luck Aamer, Wasim Akram was lucky to join Pakistan under the great command of Imran, Miandad, Zaheer but who do you have Aamer, bunch of losers the captain himself (yousaf) doesn't have any idea as to what cricket is. No game plan, Pakistan looked losers from the very first session. If Aamer and Asif were the only ones he wanted to bowl, then why saeed and rauf got selected. Non-Sense

  • Danish on December 29, 2009, 0:59 GMT

    Mr Warner just as you say Aamer has taken 5... its the potential that he has that every one is talking about ..... and about young Akmal I wish you had used NZ tour reference here 'where as you used it in caseof Aamer ' to instead of comparing him with Farharts and butts ..

  • bob on December 28, 2009, 23:08 GMT

    @DavidWarner: "As sson as a couple of wickets feel and they went into a more careful mode, he never looked like taking a wicket again" - mate, are you really sure that is the truth? how come you didn't notice the poor guy bowled about 7 over on the trot- at 100% effort!? I'm pretty sure if we had Gul/Sami and Kaneria at first change instead of Abdur Rauf and Ajmal, things would have been far more interesting!

  • Asad on December 28, 2009, 22:51 GMT

    Replying to David Warner... I think Aussie have a problem of attitude they never give respect to the other teams and guys playing against them as we all see in the previous series with West Indies..they said Johnson as an allrounder who has an average of more than 28 in bowling and batting in tests... where as in ODI he averages just 15 in ODI this what they called an allrounder.. then what you called Abdur Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood I think they are better than Ponting in batting and better than McGrath in bowling if I understand and watch cricket like David W. see the cricket!!! both Aamir and Akmal are new in the cricket world and the way they are showing their talent it should be appreciated neither criticised there still two test matches and 5 ODI left and time will show you David who got talent and ability....

  • Deepanjan on December 28, 2009, 21:53 GMT

    Both the comments I read give me something to say - Majr .. its not 'unfortunate' that Kamran's position is under scrutiny often due to his 'keeping skills. His day job is to KEEP. ( Given the slip catching and catching in general of Pak , and that Pak now don't have raw pace of Wasim,Waqar or Shoaib to target stumps). I'd anyday opt for a Boucher or Prasanna J than Kamran despite him being a superior bat. Umar however is a different story - a compact batsman oozing test class - possibly the best Pak has produced in nearly a decade. The onus is now to let him bloom and not fall thru' the cracks like Ali Naqvi, Wajahatullah Wasti etc. DavidWarner - Aamer has just started, and just to jog your memory - a certain Mr. McGrath after 6 tests had 14 wickets at 44, and SR touching 80 - not that I'm saying Aamer is the next McGrath or Akram. The talent is visible - with hard work, some show of faith and increased nous he'd get better. Even as an Indian, I find these kids exciting prospects.

  • mohsan on December 28, 2009, 21:19 GMT

    In response to Warner below, Aamir is a much better bowler than his figures suggest. I think u have been living under a rock lately and missed Aamir's odi and 20/20 performances. And for test matches, u should know how many catches have been dropped off the bowling of Aamir in his 7 tests( i would say about 8). Now that isn't his fault, is it? As for Umar Akmal, he is making runs on pitches good for bowling and where the rest of pakistanis are not making a lot of runs. I think that is enough to say he is an excellent batsman.

  • yamin on December 28, 2009, 20:47 GMT

    David warner if you can name me a more young exciting fast bowler then Aamer right now then id love to see that . Aamer is only 17 yet hes quick , level headed and has the ability to take on the worlds leading batsmen , something in which Australians apparent sparehead Mitchell Johnson has been unable to do in the past year . Umar Akmal is a clasy young player and has already shown his talen aganist Shane Bond and Vetorri in New zealand , two bolwers whom the aussies have always had diffculty with . Statastics dont show everything

  • ZEESHAN on December 28, 2009, 20:44 GMT

    Both of them are good prospects and the fact that Umar plays with no fear and expresses himself is what makes him look so speacial. I don't think there is any doubt in his ability. The way he played Siddle today was really refreshing.

  • j.c. on December 28, 2009, 19:51 GMT

    We in India love the extravagance of Pakistani youth & the flair of the windies. DavidWarner, you are wrong. This aint hype. Just give them their due. Hope Younis Khan leads the team again. Though Yousuf is a good team man, he's not a good leader.

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