Kamran dropped for second Test
Kamran Akmal has paid the price for his poor performance in the first Test against England at Trent Bridge, and has been dropped from Pakistan's team for the second game at Edgbaston, which gets underway on Friday.
Akmal's position came under fire following the Trent Bridge Test, in which he batted five balls for no runs in his two innings, while squandering a host of chances behind the stumps - most notably Eoin Morgan on 5, as he failed to gather a low edge from England's first-innings centurion, and Paul Collingwood, whom he reprieved in both innings, firstly a missed stumping on 48, and then a first-ball drop in front of first slip, only moments after his one bright moment, a sharp leg-side take off Kevin Pietersen.
"I would say he has been rested," Pakistan's captain, Salman Butt, told Cricinfo. "He is having a run where he is not able to do what he is able to usually. But he now has ten days to just take his mind off the pressures that accompany when you are not doing well at international level. I'm sure he is a champion player and he will work hard to make a comeback."
Team sources confirmed that Zulqarnain Haider, the 24-year-old reserve wicketkeeper from Lahore, will come in as Akmal's replacement, and will therefore be making his Test debut, three years after a solitary Twenty20 appearance.
"I am very happy that I have been picked and I'm grateful to everyone who selected me," Zulqarnain told Cricinfo. "I did expect that probably I would've played one Test, more towards the end of the series. But I never really expected that I would play in the second Test itself."
With six centuries from 51 Tests, Akmal's experience has tended to outweigh his propensity for poor performances behind the stumps, most notably at Sydney in January earlier this year, when he managed to reprieve Michael Hussey three times off Danish Kaneria, as Australia overcame a first-innings deficit of 207 to win a thrilling contest that, sadly but inevitably, attracted the interest of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit.
All told, Akmal has dropped 34 chances in his last 28 Tests, and he averages less than 17 in Tests in Australia, South Africa and England. The first evidence that a change behind the stumps was afoot came when Zulqarnain lined up alongside the full slip cordon for today's final practice session, with Akmal left to warm up alone on the other side of the field.
Zulqarnain was a member of Pakistan team that beat West Indies in the final of the Under-19 World Cup in Dhaka in 2004, and was named in his first Test squad later that year. He has been made to wait a long time for his opportunity.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Yousuf, who arrived in the country less than 24 hours before the start of the match, has also ruled himself out of contention, citing tiredness.
"I have just arrived after a long flight. I will not be training. I will wait for the management to tell me what their plan is," Yousuf had told Cricinfo immediately after arriving in Birmingham.
Later in the evening he had a short and informal meeting over a cup of tea with the tour selection committee comprising Butt, Waqar Younis (coach) and Yawar Saeed (team manager) at the team hotel. "Considering the heavy monsoon across Pakistan Yousuf told us that he could not practice outdoors for the last 10-15 days," Butt told Cricinfo. "So obviously we felt that was not enough match preparation."
Butt added that Yousuf can now set his sights on the third Test at The Oval beginning on August 18. "He can relax for now and steadily get back into the groove in the next week and also during the two-day practice game against Worcester," Butt said. Asked if he was a certainty for the final two Tests, Butt said a player with Yousuf's pedigree would walk into any team if he was fit.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo