Umar Akmal not giving up on Test comeback

Umar Akmal plays a cut Getty Images

Umar Akmal, the Pakistan batsman, believes he can revive his Test career despite not having played the format for nearly six years.

Akmal, 26, had made his Test debut at the age of 19 in 2009. He scored a century in his first innings but did not make another one in his next 15 Tests and was not picked again in the format after September 2011. He had scored 1003 runs in 30 innings, with six half-centuries, and averaged 35.82.

Akmal was of the opinion that his batting style was suited to the way Test cricket is played presently. "I still wonder what I did wrong and where I went wrong to be dropped from Test side," Akmal said in Dubai, where he is playing for Lahore Qalandars in the PSL. "They only dropped me saying that I am not suitable for Test cricket because I don't hold back, which is required in Tests.

"But the approach to playing Test cricket has changed over the years. Now teams score 350 or so in one day and matches hardly go into fifth day. I was playing the very same brand of cricket, which was actually evolving at that time, but I was dropped because I play fast and not the conventional way. Was that my mistake? If so, then the whole world has now adapted this modern form of cricket in Tests as well."

Around 2010 and 2011, Akmal's form dipped and subsequently he began to make headlines for discipline problems. His limited-overs form began to suffer as well and he has only two centuries in 105 ODI innings and eight half-centuries in 77 T20I innings. His flashy shot selection was a point of much debate. Akmal's duck against Peshawar Zalmi on Sunday was his 24th in the format - the most in T20 cricket.

Akmal, however, said that his position in the batting order adversely impacted his ability to play long innings and score big. He preferred to bat up the order but was kept in the lower middle, often having to play the low-percentage role of aggressor towards the end of an innings.

The recent 1-4 defeat in Australia was Akmal's first ODI series since the 2015 World Cup. He made 131 runs with a high score of 46, having batted one innings at no. 5 and four at no. 6.

"I am not careless, just playing my natural game," Akmal said. "If I am asked to score ten per over then what you expect from me? Should I play for myself, score at five, and let the run rate mount on my team? No, I rather go out, play big, and try to achieve my team's requirement. And we all know where I play [in the batting order], at which number. People often compare me with other batsmen but why don't people realise that the number I bat at is critical and there is the burden of extra responsibility.

"I still try to help my team out of pressure situations by pushing back the opponent, but sometimes I am not able to do so. But my intentions are clear that I want to play for my team according to the requirement and will play my shots."

Another issue is Akmal not satisfying the PCB's standards of fitness, on which there has been greater emphasis over the last three years. At his previous assessment, Akmal was weighed at 91kg and his fat-level reading was 115.6 - anything over 100 is considered high. Akmal, however, defended his fitness levels.

"If you talk with different players around the world, some are slightly bulky and some are smart in physique, but that doesn't mean weight defines their actual fitness," Akmal said. "I don't remember going off the field in a game, or conceding a second run. I am energetic in the field and my running between the wickets is fine as well.

"So what exactly do you expect from me? To be smart and thin, why? I can quote you many examples in which those players are theoretically fit but cannot even clear the circle. I have a natural body and if I try to reduce it I may lose my strength for power hitting."