Latif advised PCB to drop Kamran
Rashid Latif, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper and captain, had recommended in a report to the PCB to drop Kamran Akmal from international cricket, to give him time to correct a number of flaws.
Latif, widely regarded as the best, pure gloveman to come out of Pakistan after Wasim Bari, worked for the PCB in a brief stint as a wicketkeeping coach at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) from June 2008. A number of the country's top wicketkeepers attended, including Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed and Salman Ahmed, both of whom have often been touted as potential replacements.
"I gave the board a report in which I recommended that Akmal not play international cricket for at least six months but they didn't listen," Latif told Cricinfo. "He had too many technical faults, had put on too much weight for a wicketkeeper of his size and wearing a helmet to spinners was really hampering him."
Akmal's glovework has long become a source of worry for Pakistan. For a period over 2004-05, including the last trip to Australia, his keeping was widely lauded. But during 2006, in particular the tour to England where he continued playing with an injured finger, his form dipped alarmingly, and he dropped a number of chances over the next two years.
His work became a little tidier last year, but he dropped four catches in the Sydney Test, including Michael Hussey three times off Danish Kaneria. Hussey went on to score a hundred, setting up a shock 36-run win for his side from a dire position.
There are reports now that Sarfraz has been called up to the squad, though management in Australia is yet to confirm it. Sarfraz, who led Pakistan to an U-19 World Cup triumph, briefly replaced Akmal in ODIs during the 2008 Asia Cup. But Akmal's batting - he has 11 international hundreds - has often saved him; he scored valuable runs on the recent tour to New Zealand, which resulted in Sarfraz, who was on tour as a back-up, being sent back to Pakistan.
"The blunder was to send Sarfraz back," Latif said. "I had recommended that at least try guys like Sarfraz and Salman Ahmed. He wears helmets to spinners which I think they shouldn't because it messes up the eye-line.
"And as far as the argument for his batting goes, in such Tests what help is the batting? He scores a hundred every six or seven innings. Outside Pakistan and the subcontinent his average is very low. If another guy comes and scores 30 or 40 in most innings, isn't that better?"
Pakistan appear reluctant to lose or even rest Akmal, however. Yousuf - and Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik before him - has enough faith in his batting to keep him in the side. Yousuf defended Akmal after the third day, when he had dropped Hussey thrice, and did so again in the aftermath of the loss.
"It's not easy to make such players," Yousuf said. "If you drop him, his confidence is totally down and it will go further down. If you don't want to play him again then it is understandable. But making such a player is not easy. He will get spoilt if he is dropped."
Yousuf conceded, however, that something might be done, though it is believed even he is unaware of the reports of Sarfraz's impending arrival. "This is something to discuss after a few days really," Yousuf said. "Kamran Akmal - okay if we say let's not play him in Tests, but he will do well in ODIs and Twenty20s and come back again into Tests. And not everything is in my hands."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo