The axe has finally fallen on Kamran Akmal as Pakistan have left out the under fire wicketkeeper from the list of 20 probables announced for the Asia Cup, which begins on June 24. All the other members of the squad that won the Kitply Cup in Bangladesh have been included among the probables.
"We have decided to rest Kamran Akmal. He needs to sharpen up his stumps work," Salahuddin Ahmed, chief selector, told Cricinfo. Akmal has been Pakistan's regular wicketkeeper since November 2004, when he took over from Moin Khan, playing virtually non-stop in all three formats. Over the last two years, however, Akmal's form has been poor behind the stumps. The slump began on the 2006 tour to England, where he fluffed a number of chances, but since then he has been unable to improve.
The last straw came when he was criticised by Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, in an email leaked to the press for claiming a controversial catch against Virender Sehwag during the Kitply Cup league match against India, which Pakistan lost by 140 runs.
"[The] wicketkeeping was pathetic, especially after Kamran Akmal dropped the catch and pretended that he had held on to it," Ashraf wrote to team manager Talat Ali.
"This is unsporting behaviour but perhaps one has to give him the benefit of the doubt as he may not have realised that the ball had slipped out from his hand, which was picked up by the cameras. I do not want such behaviour from any Pakistani player. Please warn everyone. We ought to be looking at playing another 'keeper."
Part of the reason Akmal was persisted with for so long was that he was Shoaib Malik's preference, particularly as Malik was able to utilise him as an opener. But a poor showing in front of and behind the stumps in Bangladesh has finally meant he can no longer hold his place. Sarfraz Ahmed, the former U-19 World Cup winning captain, has been expectedly called up as Akmal's replacement.
Other inclusions in the probables are opening batsman Yasir Hameed, Mansoor Amjad, Abdur Rauf and Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner off the back of an impressive first-class season, taking 38 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 29.
"He [Amjal] was impressive this season and we want to assess him more carefully now before we announce the final squad," Salahuddin said.
While Sarfraz has played only three ODIs, not having batted in any of them, Hameed has been in and out of the side since last year, though he made his debut in 2003. Rauf is a fast bowler who has played one ODI, against Zimbabwe in February. The final squad will be named on June 22.