Umar Akmal has had more than his fair share of controversy in his career so far, and it appears he has learned to take all of it in his stride. In an interview with Geo News - his first since being sent home from the Champions Trophy owing to two failed fitness tests - Umar struck a defiant yet conciliatory tone, promising to come back stronger and apologising to his fans.
"I want to ask forgiveness of all fans who have been hurt by my conduct," Akmal said. "I am ready to commit to cricket. I still have a lot of cricket left in me and I aim to make another international comeback. I am even more focused on cricket now. My role model is Younis Khan, and even when he faced difficulties, he became even more determined. In the same way, I am now determined to come back more than ever.
"Firstly, I want to wish [his replacement] Haris Sohail best of luck," Umar said. "I also want to thank Inzi bhai [Inzamam] for conducting a fitness Test in Pakistan. I was also appointed captain of the Punjab team in the Pakistan Cup. Cricket is my bread and butter, and therefore I will try and fulfil whatever requirements the PCB has to allow me to return. Regardless of whether I'm with the team or not, my best wishes will always be with them."
Umar has frustrated Pakistan fans ever since he broke into the national side almost eight years ago as a 19-year-old. He made a blazing start to international cricket, scoring a century in just his third ODI and another one on Test debut. But lingering periods where his concentration appeared to go haywire, as well as several incidents off the pitch that have landed him in trouble, have left most resigned to the idea that he will be a talent unfulfilled.
Umar was asked to return from England after he failed two fitness tests in two days, ahead of the Champions Trophy next month. He had been recalled to the ODI squad for the Champions Trophy, after being dropped from the team that toured the West Indies in April. He had initially been excluded from that squad as well, after he was the only player, among 31, to fail the fitness test during the camp held at the NCA in March. However, he proved his fitness during the Pakistan Cup in Rawalpindi.
Fitness has become a priority for Pakistan in the recent past, with the PCB backing the selectors and the team management to enforce strict policies. "We had a set a fitness standard which isn't really a tough one to start with," chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said. "But he still didn't meet the average level. So whoever the player is, whatever his performance is like, we could not select him. Akmal being dropped is a reprimand and it's a major blow for any player. He is a good player, we needed him, but we had to take a decision."
In an annual assessment earlier this year, Umar had weighed 91kgs with a fat-level reading of 115.6. A measurement in excess of 100 is considered high.