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'I need to tone down my desperation' - Umar Akmal

After having lost his place in the Pakistan Test side, Umar Akmal has realised that he needs to control his urge to go hard at the ball. That is not going to stop him from playing his strokes though

Umar Farooq

December 26, 2011

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A

Umar Akmal struck some late blows in his unbeaten 79, England v Pakistan, 4th Test, Lord's, August 29, 2010
Umar Akmal hasn't lived up to his immense potential © AFP
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Umar Akmal, the Pakistan batsman, has maintained that he will not tone down his hard-hitting approach despite getting dropped from the Pakistan Test team recently, but admitted that he needed to work on batting for longer periods. "Being aggressive and not staying for long at the pitch are two different things," Akmal told ESPNcricinfo. "I am working hard to strengthen my ability to bat longer. I don't think I should hold back my shots in Tests. If I do that, I'll get confused and start declining."

Akmal was axed from the Test squad in October for the series against Sri Lanka after scoring just one half-century in the format in 2011. Mohsin Khan, the chief selector and interim coach, told him to "stop being selfish" and learn how to convert starts into substantial innings by going back to domestic cricket.

Akmal said that he now knew what the problem was with his batting: the tendency to fritter away starts. His attacking style didn't need to be altered. "Being aggressive is in my nature. Playing big shots in Test cricket is no more abnormal. We have [Virender] Sehwag, [Kevin] Pietersen and many other players who play big shots."

Belligerence and Test cricket are no longer mutually exclusive, especially after the advent of Twenty20. Belligerent was the manner in which Akmal announced his arrival on the Test stage in November 2009. In his first Test innings, against New Zealand in Dunedin, 19-year-old Akmal hammered 23 boundaries on his way to 129. None of the other specialist Pakistan batsmen managed 30 in that innings. The Dunedin hundred came after Akmal had blitzed to a century in his third ODI off 70 deliveries a couple of months earlier. No wonder he believes his fearless approach to playing strokes will be instrumental in building his career.

But the tremendous potential that he showed two years ago has largely gone unfulfilled till now. Akmal has not made another Test century since his impressive debut. After a poor year in 2010, when he averaged just 24.33, he was left out of the XI for the two Tests in New Zealand though he returned to the side for the Tests in the West Indies. But after struggling to play long innings even in ODIs, he was ultimately left out of the Test squad in October. The axeing was a big setback but Akmal has realised that it was justified. "It was a fair call by the selectors. I was in a hurry to score runs and was ending up without completing what my team required me to do.

"It's very disappointing when you are axed and especially from the Test squad. Test cricket is the supreme form of the game and it is where I want to perform the best. No matter how long you play one-dayers and Twenty20s, it is Test cricket that will determine your worth."

These days, Akmal is playing as much as he can for Cricket Center Cricket Club in Lahore - there has hardly been a day during which he hasn't played a match. He is also spending most of his time on the field with his brother Kamran Akmal, trying to develop control over his wide range of strokes. He admitted that he needed to cut down on his urge to go hard at the ball.

"When I am at the crease everything apart from the ball in the bowler's hands is a blur and I am very desperate to strike it. I think I need to tone down my desperation and that will come when play more and more cricket. My brother and coaches have helped me a lot in this regard, and you might have seen a difference in my recent batting."

The longer format, of course, demands more restraint and greater concentration compared to limited-overs cricket. Not all players can be adept in all formats, but Akmal asserted that he could cope with the demands of the modern game with a single approach.

"Cricket these days is so fast. I think I must not confuse myself by changing my focus again and again for different formats of the game. The approach must remain intact. What I was asked to do was to develop the temperament to stay at the wicket and [told that] the runs would then automatically come. I don't know what the selectors have decided about me, but I am very much hopeful to regain my place in the Test side. I am still young and learning. This is a process that will never end."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 5wombats on (December 29, 2011, 22:14 GMT)

@NevadaSmith - quality post- one of the best I've ever read on cricinfo. Elite team sport has a complex chemistry, cricket in particular, and you are absolutely right; no one player can be "above" or "outside" the team. Lets hope Umar can pick up the self-discipline needed to fulfil the obvious talent he has.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 16:57 GMT)

good to see him back in test side he is the my fav best of luck umar akmal and pakistan team LOVE YOU PAKISTAN

Posted by faforce on (December 28, 2011, 5:53 GMT)

One has to be blind to not realize that he's selfish from his own words in this very article. He just doesn't get it. For him, it seems that it's all about maintaining his own strong mental health but it really doesn't matter how many runs the team needs to score.

Posted by cricket_fan_1980 on (December 27, 2011, 22:17 GMT)

He should be tried for a few shots in the test arena, but he must prove himself within just a few games, otherwise Azher, Asad, Younis and Misbah are a much better middle for Pakistan. Umar Akmal is no doubt talented, but he needs to show more mental strength and stamina

Posted by Sali123 on (December 27, 2011, 18:04 GMT)

HE should never change his game... that will be the worst thing he could do to himself.. having a positive approach even after being dropped shows that this youngster will be a great catch for Pakistan...

Posted by GASyed on (December 27, 2011, 13:12 GMT)

I am a fan of Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla because they are perfect batsmen. They show aggression when needed and but control themselves according to situation. Just watch their every innings, they maintain high scoring rate and stay for long. Umar needs to closely follow them to reach to their rank. Only aggression will never work for him, although the cricket lovers love to watch aggression from any batsmen, of course not against their national teams, hahaha.

Posted by Stone-Aamir on (December 27, 2011, 10:05 GMT)

After the excellent start to his intenational career, he just converted to a mere slogger.To become a good test player he needs to be more patient and composed and wait for the right deliveries to hit rather then trying to hit every ball delivered at him. Following Peterson or Sehwag requires similar range of strokes and hand-eye coordination and even this may not help on the tracks more suited to bowlers. I dont think there is an immediate place for Umar in the current Pakistan batting lineup.Azhar and Asad are doing good enough work to hold their places.

Posted by anver777 on (December 27, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

Umar Akmal is a great talent with long future ahead..............but need to be patience & minimize his attacking shots so that he can convert the fifties in to big scores in test matches. Like to see a changed Umar Akmal against Eng !!!!!!!!!

Posted by Pathiyal on (December 27, 2011, 7:12 GMT)

the positive comments here, which is quite unusual assures the support of the cricket lovers for his young and adorable batsman. hope Umar gets a chance to read and understand what he means to world cricket. Umar, so far we have enjoyed your innings pretty well. just tune your innings a bit, don't repetedly go for big shots, try to rotate the strike, concentrate on running between the wickets and don't think too far. love from across the border - Vinod Pathiyal

Posted by Percy_Fender on (December 27, 2011, 3:34 GMT)

I would like to tell all the well wishers of Umar Akmal that though I think he is a good batsman, he does not have the all round personality and composure of say Inzammam or Yusuf Yohanna at the same age.They had all the strokes in the book and a steely temperament as well. Merely because there has not been anyone as great as them after they left, Umar is getting more notice. I agree with Mohsin Kamal's method of keeping him out of the team till he learns to value his side's requirements than his own ego.To be a good No 3, one has to follow the likes of Dravid,Ponting and Trott. They all are low profile champions who do not think that they can never be wrong.They have humility, which is what Umar should inculcate. I am not too sure how good his skills are because I have not seen him except in limited over games. But he looks fairly good. He needs to evolve as a human being before he can think of playing Tests.I wish he plays in the IPL where he can meet some legends to know more.

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