Pakistan will consider using Umar Akmal as a wicketkeeper in their remaining group games in the World Cup in a bid to offset the disastrous glovework of his elder brother Kamran. Akmal senior missed three chances in Tuesday's big loss to New Zealand, including the centurion Ross Taylor twice in three balls when he was on 0 and 4.
Those chances come on the back of two missed stumpings in the win against Sri Lanka and over four years of constant, error-strewn performances. "It [keeping with Umar] is very much an option and we might try it in the next game," captain Shahid Afridi told Geo News.
As a sign of Pakistan's concern over Kamran's form with gloves and bat - he has only three dismissals so far and averages less than 30 as a batsman - Afridi did not rule out the possibility not playing him as a specialist batsman and dropping Kamran altogether. "We have five days now before our next game, so whatever is better for the team we will try it," he said.
Kamran is the only specialist wicketkeeper in the squad but Umar kept for the side in one ODI against South Africa last November, after Zulqarnain Haider fled to London. He was also behind the wickets for three T20s in New Zealand soon after.
"If you see him train, he puts in a lot of hard work. I don't know why but luck has deserted him," Afridi said. "He is also upset about his performance [against New Zealand] and he realizes it too." Asked by the channel how "luck" seems to have deserted him so often in the last four years, Afridi smiled and said, "I can't give an exact answer to that. My job is to back him, to support him and hopefully he will do his best."
If he is dropped, it will not be the first time in the last four years it has happened to Kamran. After a promising couple of years as the first-choice replacement for Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, Akmal's performances began to dip on the 2006 trip to England, where he persisted behind the stumps despite a finger injury.
But Pakistan stuck with him until June 2008, when Sarfraz Ahmed kept for the side in the Asia Cup. Kamran returned soon after, however, with no discernible improvement in performance. Only in January 2010 was he next axed and it took the monumental failure of the Sydney Test, where he missed five chances in all, for Sarfraz to be flown out for the final Test in Hobart.
In Pakistan's next Test against Australia at Lord's last summer, Kamran was back again, however. After three more poor Tests, Zulqarnain Haider came in to replace him, but a contentious finger injury ruled him out after his debut. Yet again, Kamran returned to keep wickets in the last two Tests of the summer.
He was subsequently caught up in the fall-out of the spot-fixing scandal and the PCB refused to clear his selection for the series against South Africa in the UAE and the third Akmal brother, Adnan, took his place in the two Tests. But the board's integrity committee finally cleared him in December, allowing for his selection in the ODI series against New Zealand and the World Cup squad.
His long-term future is again under question now. After the game, Waqar Younis, the coach, said "After the World Cup maybe we can think about it, but we are in the middle of the tournament and I don't think we can make such a change right now."
Pakistan took a day off from training on Wednesday but the team management said it would sit down and go through the loss and plan for the next game, against Zimbabwe on March 14.