What to make of Akmal and Shehzad's shoddy comeback?
When Pakistan were ousted from the World T20 2016 in India in a humiliating manner, the then head coach Waqar Younis had said that Pakistan should do away with the likes of Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad for the betterment of the team. And while Waqar Younis recently retracted his statement after taking the charge as the bowling coach of Pakistan, he must know by now in his heart that he wasn’t wrong after what transpired against Sri Lanka in the first T20I in Lahore.
Dismissed for 4 and a golden duck against a depleted Sri Lankan bowling line up, Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal were making their comebacks after two years and six months respectively. It appeared last night as if nothing has changed for the two who were shunned by Mickey Arthur, who enjoys the reputation of not tolerating indiscipline and murky fitness standards. Something that has always been synonymous with the two.
While the two were away from the team, they did what Shoaib Malik did all those years ago to cement his place in the side when he was discarded for good after the fiasco that was Pakistan’s tour to Australia 2010. Shoaib Malik, while scoring heaps of runs in domestic cricket and T20 leagues across the world, learned the art of remaining relevant by completely changing his persona on social media.
Ahmed Shehzad, who would often get criticised for imitating Virat Kohli, started posting his work-out videos on his Instagram and Twitter to let the masses know that he was serious this time. The cue was taken soon by the naughtiest of all the Akmals, who along with his brother Kamran Akmal, started posting his videos of practicing his strokes on marble slabs in the ground. They did not only get the attention of the fans but the new coach Misbah-ul-Haq thought they deserved to get a go after the public’s opinion had seemingly changed about them.
Umar Akmal walks off after being dismissed ©PCB
But, was Misbah’s decision that of a man who is considered as one of the best tacticians that Pakistan cricket has ever had? Was it necessary to change the team combination especially at such a crucial juncture when the World T20 2020 is only 12 months away? Pakistan and especially Sarfaraz Ahmed may have their shares of concerns in Tests and ODIs but if there is one aspect of the game where Pakistan and Sarfaraz really shine is the T20 format. Was it necessary to disrupt the team balance at the cost of two tried and tested failures?
What happens, if by any chance, one of the two, or both, score heavily in the remaining T20Is? Will they be persisted with at the cost of the likes of Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan who, when given the opportunity, made hay while the sun shone. Will there be another wait of a failure from the two that would inevitably disturb the team combination again?
Misbah for all the good work that he has done with the team as captain has got a lot riding on his back especially after assuming the dual role of head coach and chief selector. Will the failure of execution of plans be blamed on him as the head coach? Probably. Will he be held accountable for unjustified selections? Definitely.