x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kamran Akmal recalled as 'the only option' for Pakistan

Wicketkeeper heads to UAE after being cleared by the ICC and year's absence from international cricket.

In Kamran Akmal’s absence, the Pakistan selectors tried others but did not find someone as solid and fit as him.
In Kamran Akmal’s absence, the Pakistan selectors tried others but did not find someone as solid and fit as him.

Pakistan have recalled wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to their squad for the series against Australia in the UAE and for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

Akmal returns over a year after he last played for Pakistan, at the 2011 World Cup. He was dropped from the side then on the back of poor performances behind the stumps, but set against the backdrop of the fallout from the spot-fixing scandal, there appeared more to his exclusion than just performances.

Though not directly implicated, Akmal was sent a notice by the ICC's anti-corruption unit in 2010 and emerged as a prominent figure through the criminal trial of the three players who were eventually found guilty: Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.

But he was cleared by the Pakistan board's integrity committee, and coupled with the continuing problems Pakistan faced in finding a replacement, especially in this format, that paved the way for his return.

"We have tried lots of wicketkeeper-batsmen after Kamran, but nothing was panning out," Pakistan's chief selector Iqbal Qasim told ESPNcricinfo when they included Akmal in a provisional 30-man squad last week.

"We need a solid wicketkeeper who can score quick runs and currently Kamran is the only option for us. He has kept himself fully fit and more importantly he has been cleared by the PCB."

His selection is one of a few bound to raise eyebrows, equally in delight and consternation. Imran Nazir, the opener who last played for Pakistan in the UAE against England in February 2010 in a T20, has also returned, reward for an impressive run at the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) and the domestic Twenty20 earlier this year in both of which he finished the second-highest run-scorer.

Abdul Razzaq's stop-start international career has also been revived; the 32-year-old all-rounder last played a T20 for Pakistan in December 2010, though he was part of the ODI side until November last year.

"Each player in the side has a role and has been selected accordingly," Qasim said. "Razzaq and Imran are utility players and can make a difference. Imran is a good fielder, while Razzaq can also be useful as a seamer on Sri Lankan pitches [during the World T20] and can score some quick runs."

More expected was the return to the squad of opener Nasir Jamshed, who missed the recent tour to Sri Lanka with an injury; Asad Shafiq's return to the format, on the other hand, leaves the middle order thin on explosiveness. Umar Akmal and, to an extent, Shoaib Malik, are the only other middle-order selections.

There are no changes to the bowling attack that played in Sri Lanka though, given his development, questions will be asked of Junaid Khan's exclusion as a pace option.

Mohammad Hafeez will again lead the side in the UAE and Sri Lanka.

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