x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Kamran Akmal, best friend of every batsman and rival of Pakistan

Ian Chappell summed up best when he said "If his batting was as good as Don Bradman's, he couldn't score enough runs to make up for what he costs them with his keeping".

Since July 2006, Kamran has dropped a staggering 62 catches and fluffed 23 stumping opportunities. Hamish Blair / Getty Images
Since July 2006, Kamran has dropped a staggering 62 catches and fluffed 23 stumping opportunities. Hamish Blair / Getty Images

If Kamran Akmal was to open up his Facebook page today, he would probably find no friends. Well, that is quite harsh - the fact is the Pakistan wicketkeeper does have a few friends and for completely the wrong reasons.

Among this select group of individuals can be found the likes of Ross Taylor and other opposition batsmen whom Kamran has gifted lives through his extraordinary generosity behind the stumps.

Among his compatriots, not too many bowlers have been spared by his skills (or lack thereof) in his fledgling career.

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Danish Kaneria had long been regarded as a bowler whose career has been tarnished by Kamran's keeping. Now Shoaib Akhtar has become the latest to join the notorious list of unlucky bowlers after Kamran put down two simple catches off the exasperated paceman against New Zealand.

Shoaib later announced that this World Cup was to be his swansong and it is debatable whether the 28-run over he bowled against New Zealand will be his last on the international stage. For such an exhilarating career, it would prove a sad climax.

While Shoaib has found himself cooling his heels as a drinks carrier for the team, Kamran, it appears, can do no wrong. The irreplaceable wicketkeeper continues to ride his fast-sinking ship with confidence. He appears to be under the tutelage of a Pakistan support team who have taken the term "support" to a new height.

It is seemingly just too troublesome to drop Kamran while he has free rein to continue dropping every ball in sight. Pakistan batsmen are unfortunate that they do not have a similar luxury when they go out to bat.

Such is Pakistan's convoluted faith in their stopper that they were seen congratulating Kamran when he held on to the simplest of catches against Zimbabwe.

He had not held on to a blinder, nor had he dismissed the world's premier batsmen, but it was Team Pakistan breathing a collective sigh of relief to see "caught Akmal" on the scorecard.

It would appear that, given the precarious condition of his skill set, any ball that is somehow captured in those gloves of his is deemed to have defied some law of nature and is to be cherished.

His sorry form behind the wicket was also evident earlier in the tournament, when Kamran missed two straightforward stumping opportunities against Kumar Sangakarra, Sri Lanka's premier batsman. Kamran must have been grateful that the costly misses did not shape the final outcome of the game.

He was not so fortunate against New Zealand.

The Pakistan keeper certainly deserves to have a book written about his cricketing career. It could be an intriguing mystery novel of how a keeper with such promise became the butt of all jokes. On second thoughts, a joke book could be a top seller, too.

"Behind every successful man, there is a successful woman. Behind every successful batsman, there is Kamran Akmal," is one of the many jokes doing the rounds on the internet.

From his debut as an exciting young player, improvement in his keeping has been non-existent. His notorious cry of "ghoome gi" (it will turn) when calling to outfielders in the deep, should more aptly be used as a reference of hope for his keeping - it will turn.

Since July 2006, Kamran has dropped a staggering 62 catches and fluffed 23 stumping opportunities.

The inventory contains a who's who of world cricket with notable inclusions such as the three times he dropped Australia's Michael Hussey in the Sydney Test match and the recent dual birthday presents he gave to Taylor.

Kamran's only saving grace has been his swashbuckling batting.

He hit his maiden one-day century in a match against the West Indies in 2005 as he led the side to a comfortable six-wicket win. He followed that up with the now famous rearguard action against India at Chandigarh. Kamran buckled down and scored a composed century to frustrate India to share the spoils of that Test series 1-1. To be fair, even during the current World Cup, Kamran has batted reasonably well up the top of the order.

However, regardless of his batting, it is questionable whether contributions with the bat make up for the numerous comical displays behind the stumps. Ian Chappell was spot on with his assessment of Kamran's worth in the side.

"If his batting was as good as Don Bradman's, he couldn't score enough runs to make up for what he costs them with his keeping," Chappell said.

The reason why Kamran's keeping has regressed to such a drastic level has also become a favourite topic of debate for every Pakistani.

Opinion ranges from the non-stop cricketing schedule, his family commitments, his fitness and even his weight. Rashid Latif, Pakistan's former wicketkeeper, recently commented that, "he looks like a beach boy rather than a cricketer".

Every past World Cup-winning team has possessed a solid keeper, so even as Pakistan are looking to write another glorious chapter in their World Cup history with Kamran behind the stumps, it is worth remembering that the better keepers of the yesteryear, such as Moin Khan, Romesh Kaluwitharana or Adam Gilchrist, were all blessed with smart cricketing brains and were not just bashers of the ball. Additionally, and more importantly, they were all fan favourites, something Kamran is unlikely to ever achieve.

It is clear that if Kamran has a safe game behind the stumps, Pakistan's chances of winning improve ten-fold as was evident with his display against Australia - not spectacular, but blunder free. If Pakistan are to win the World Cup, they can ill afford slip ups from Kamran in the knockout stage.

But for now, Pakistan are stuck with Kamran. Fans are not expecting anything special from him, they are resigned to accept that he will never improve.

For now they can only have high hopes that his poor form behind the stumps may desert him for three more games, or as he says "ghoome gi".

 

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