Balancing my batting and wicketkeeping duties will be tough, admits Umar Akmal

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Akmal noted that his exclusion from the Champions Trophy was a “kick in the groin”

Pakistan’s Umar Akmal has admitted that balancing his new duties as wicketkeeper-batsman during the team’s tour of the Caribbean will be tough as there will be more pressure and responsibility on his shoulders.

Having donned the keeping gloves for only seven out of the 71 ODIs he has played, Akmal conceded it would not be an easy task.

“I’ve played a lot of cricket for Pakistan as a batsman and to be handed the responsibility of having to also keep wicket is a tough ask,” Akmal said in an interview with Pak Passion. “But sometimes you have to do things outside your comfort zone in sport and, if the selectors, captain and coach want me to keep wicket then I am prepared to do that and to give it my best shot.

“I’ve always enjoyed batting and fielding. (But) Bowling and wicketkeeping have never really been in my plans. We had enough wicketkeepers in our household and I was never needed as a keeper when we (Umar, Kamran and Adnan Akmal) practised as youngsters.”

After Pakistan’s failure in the Champions Trophy, where they failed to win a single match, score more than 200 runs or bat out their allotted 50 overs, the national selectors decided to drop Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat and Kamran Akmal.

With Kamran out of the squad, Umar has now taken up his older brother’s responsibilities.

“Everybody had an opinion that to pick a side that can explore opportunities, we would need a wicketkeeper who is also a full-time batsman,” Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore said. “We will be working with Umar to ensure he gets as much practice as he can to become a player who can fulfill both roles. We have seen this with South Africa, this is also what Rahul Dravid did for India years ago. So we need to understand what we are trying to achieve with this and we have to be patient after giving him a chance.”

Akmal, who has been heavily criticised for his needless aggression at times in the past, revealed that he thought his exclusion from the Champions Trophy was a “strange and surprising decision”.

“It was very disappointing to miss out playing in such a prestigious tournament,” he said. “I admit that at times I’ve played some reckless shots that I didn’t need to play, but when you are out in the middle, in front of thousands of fans at the ground and millions watching on television, you want to do your best and entertain, and that sometimes leads to mistakes.”

The 23-year-old added that he used the time off to train hard and make changes to his game in order to ensure he becomes a permanent member of the national team in the future.

“The Champions Trophy snub was a kick in the groin,” he added. “Whilst it was a setback, it also made me think about my approach to batting and the changes I needed to make as a batsman.

“I think you’ll see a more mature Umar Akmal at the crease on the tour of the Caribbean and in the future. I don’t think there will be a total overhaul of my approach, style and shot selection, but there will be some changes.”

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