Former openers call for Kamran Akmal promotion
Mudassar Nazar and Mohsin Khan, the former Pakistan opening pair, has urged the team to settle on the opening three positions in the side, in order to bring about stability to the batting line-up. They support the idea of Kamran Akmal being used either as opener or at No. 3 in limited-over matches, in order to get the best out of the wicketkeeper batsman.
During the ongoing South Africa tour, both captain Misbah-ul-Haq and vice-captain Mohammad Hafeez were reportedly at loggerheads over playing Kamran Akmal in the opening slot. Hafeez was asked to bat at No. 3, but this apparently did not sit well with him.
Akmal has played 62 of 144 ODIs as an opener, scoring 1617 runs (55.15 %) of his career runs. He has been asked to compromise in the past by batting in the late middle-order. In the middle order slot, he has scored 669 (22.82 %) of his runs, with only one hundred. His other four hundreds were scored as an opener.
Hafeez, in his last ten ODI innings, has scored 233 runs at an average of 23.30, including three ducks. He has consistently played as opener since Salman Butt's exit in 2010. During the recent Test series against South Africa, Hafeez averaged 7.16 in six innings as an opener. As a result, Hafeez was demoted in the batting order.
"I don't know what is going on, but demoting yourself down the order is difficult and tough only when you are insecure," Mohsin said, who started his career as a No. 3 batsman, opened on the request of his captain Imran Khan. "It's all for the sake of the team, and if you continue to be stubborn it will eventually cost the team and become a liability."
The key reason for Kamran's selection is because of his skills with the bat, although there are other wicketkeepers on the domestic circuit who can replace him. Mohsin, who was a former chief selector, believed Kamran is there for a reason, and should be utilised accordingly. "Using Kamran in the middle order is ineffective," Mohsin said. "Despite being a talented batsman, he is being misused. If your top five batsmen aren't performing, then it's unfair to expect something big from the number six."
After the Nazar/Mohsin pair, and the departure of Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar, Pakistan have been experimenting with several players in the hope of finding a reliable opening duo. The last enduring opening pair in limited-overs was that of Salman Butt and Kamran, between 2005 and 2010. Both added 1000 ODI runs in 29 matches. In the last ten years, several combinations have been tried, but a stable pair is yet to be found.
"Pakistan have not backed their opening combinations since early 2000s, and this is the main reason we have not achieved stability yet," Nazar said. "We can stick to Hafeez and Nasir at the opening slot, but the scoring rate by Younis and Misbah is very slow and that is damaging. We need to reshuffle the batting order in order to make it steady. The No. 3 batsman is very important and at the moment I see Kamran as the best man [for the position]. Playing him at No. 6 or 7 is wasting him."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent