Umar Akmal has said he is excited to play for Pakistan in front of his home crowd for the first time in his career, and is overjoyed that international cricket is returning to his country with the Zimbabwe series. Akmal made his international debut in August 2009, but no Full Member nation has toured Pakistan since the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in March 2009. Zimbabwe will play two T20Is and three ODIs in Lahore beginning on May 22.
"It will be an amazing feeling, it would mean so much to me. Cricketers around the world take playing at home in front of their own crowds for granted," Akmal told PakPassion. "But unfortunately many of us Pakistani cricketers have never been able to play in our own conditions which is really tough. I know the people of Pakistan are really looking forward to the return of international cricket to Pakistan and so are the players. I can't wait to hopefully walk out in front of the Lahore crowd if I am selected. I thank the Zimbabwe team for embarking on this tour and hope it's the start of international cricket returning permanently to Pakistan."
Akmal was recalled to the Pakistan T20 squad after he was left out for the tour to Bangladesh. He made scores of 35, 1, 95 not out and 85 not out in four innings in the recently concluded Super8 T20 Cup for Lahore Lions. "I went back to club cricket and performed well there and I was also one of the top-scorers during the Super8 tournament in Faisalabad and showed the selectors that I am in good form and can score runs when given the opportunity. I'm hoping that I can carry my good form into the Zimbabwe series."
Reports of disciplinary issues coupled with a poor World Cup - where he scored 164 runs in seven games at an average of 27.33 - resulted in him not being selected for the tour to Bangladesh. Akmal said that batting down the order had affected his returns.
"I have done the best I could despite the position I have been batting in for large parts of my career. I could have been selfish and finished with a few more not outs, but that's not the way I am. I'm a team player and will not sacrifice the team's interests for my own. Obviously you cannot make runs every time, but I feel my better performances have come when the management have shown faith in me and given me a chance to bat up the order."