Kamran Akmal- The Batsman

On January 29th, 2006, Pakistan played India in the historic National Stadium Karachi in the third Test match of the series. It was a winner takes it all scenario because the first two test ended in draws. The first over of that morning is etched in the minds of all Pakistan fans because Irfan Pathan wreaked havoc and snapped a brilliant hattrick. Suddenly Pakistan was 0/3 and then 39/6. The hope was all lost, no one believed that Pakistan could pull out a miracle, but one man did. He came to the crease when the team was reeling, desperately wanting someone to take command. And here he was, playing perhaps one of the most important knocks of Pakistan’s test history, that man scored a brilliant 113 to take his team to a respectable score of 245. What happened afterwards was nothing short of a miracle as Pakistan went on to win the match by 341 runs. Many of you would be wondering who that man was- His name: Kamran Akmal.

Kamran Akmal the batsman is someone who could have achieved more. He played several innings which bailed Pakistan out form precarious situations and set up the wins. He was an equally good batsman in all three formats. In the Test Arena he played 53 games averaging 30.8 with 12 50s and 6 100s. He averaged 51 against New Zealand (3 games), 44 against India, scoring 4 100s against them, and 38.1 against Sri Lanka which shows that he had the ability to perform against good bowling sides. However, his averages against Australia, South Africa and England are below 30 with a solitary century against the Englishmen, a well-made 154 at Lahore. His best years were 2006, 2007 and 2009 during which he averaged 40.4, 37.5 and 44.69, scoring 4 100s and 11 50s. He had a forgettable 2010 in which he averaged 10 which proved to be the reason of his ouster from the national side. He had a phenomenal home record as he played 15 home games averaging 56.74 and an equally disappointing away record where he averages a below par 23.4. As far as the batting position is concerned his best was at the no.8 position where he averages 34 and has scored 3 100s. As a number 7 batsman he has played 46 innings averaging 31 and scoring 3 100s.

Kamran Akmal is known to be hard-hitting batsman famous for his cut and pull shots. He can score down the ground and could tonk the ball out of the park. However, his ODI record appears to be mediocre by his standards. He has played 158 ODIs till now averaging 26.1, scoring 5 100s and 10 50s. His best averages are against England 35.38, Zimbabwe 34.5 and West Indies 33.6. apart from that he has a poor record against the top teams like New Zealand, India, South Africa and Australia with very few good innings against them. The shocker is his record against India because as far as test are concerned he has played some memorable innings against them but in ODIs he averages just 20 in 27 games played against them with only 2 50s. He has averaged 30+ in his career only four times in 2002, 2005,2008 and 2011 which shows his inconsistency in this format. His home and away average is quite similar so is his record batting first and batting second. Therefore, nothing can be deduced regarding his pressure taking abilities. His best batting position was as an opener where he scored 4 100s and 4 50s. However, in all the batting positions where he played more than 7 innings he couldn’t average more than 30 in any of them.

He was in supreme t20 form in 2009 and 2010 during which Pakistan won the Wt20 2009 where he played well at the top of the order. He averaged 28 in both years which are considered good statistics considering the short nature of the game. He scored his 5 career 50s during these two years and played a remarkable 41 under pressure in the final of the wt20 2009, to set the stage for Pakistan’s win.

Comparing Kamran Akmal with his team mates, his test record during the period 2005-2009 where his thrived the most as a test batsman, he averaged 38 during that time and only Misbah 42, Shahid Afridi 43, Inzamam 55.5. Yousaf 60 and Younis 60.6 were better than him and all were top order batsmen. This shows that as no.8 batsmen Kamran Akmal did balance the team in the presence of these stalwarts. In terms of 50 plus scores Kamran had 17 and was only behind Yousaf and Younis who had 23 and 22 50 plus scores respectively. If we compare the ODI batsmen which played with Kamran during the 4-year period, he seems to be behind them. Mohammad Yousaf leads the chart and Kamran as a top order batsmen average 26 which is equal to his career average. His average stands at no.14 in the list of batsmen who played more than 10 games for Pakistan during 2005-2009. His last good year was in 2011 after which he failed whenever an opportunity was provided to him.

The stats do no justice in explaining the talent Kamran Akmal possess but they do tell how he did in the international arena. Since his axing from the team he has proved to be a match winner in the PSL for his team, Peshawar Zalmi. He is the league highest run scorer across 3 seasons scoring 2 100s, 6 50s with an average of 30 and a SR of 133. He has also hit the most number sixes 49 and the most number of fours 85. He has won the title once and ended as a runner up in 2018.

People may remember Kamran Akmal for his crucial drops, but his batting exploits cannot be ignored. He has played several knocks which have led Pakistan to wins. Maybe his wicket keeping got the better of his talent as a batter which he could show only in bits and pieces. He has rejuvenated himself in the Pakistan Super League and although the fans always keep their eyes on his keeping skill, but I believe that less pressure towards the later part of his career has allowed him to concentrate more towards his batting which has led to spectacular performances in the domestic cricket and the PSL. He was at best a reliable test player, an average ODI player and a good t20 player and never fulfilled the potential he had with the bat.

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PSL is an emotion

Franchise sports has caught the imagination of people from various fields which includes sports, economics and finance due to its success in every part of the world. NBA, NFL, MLB, The European soccer all have established themselves as multi-billion-dollar worth leagues with each franchise creating a very big fan base. Cricket embraced the franchised sport a little late and when it did in 2008 in the shape of the Indian Premier League, it took the cricketing fraternity by a storm. For years I, as a Pakistani yearned for a league of our own considering the circumstances that how the IPL made India the absolute power in world cricket. When we did get our very own Pakistan Super League, I knew it was something which could never fail.

Before the PSL what Pakistan had was a domestic t-20 tournament which was a pretty successful one considering the interest and fan attendance. However, as a Pakistani cricket fan the amount of emotional involvement I had in these tournaments was very less and especially after the IPL began the emotions died out. I could not feel the need to support any team and remained a neutral most of the times. Although the domestic t20 had some amazing matches and quality players played there was always that lack of emotion which I knew will only be filled if we had a league of our own.

When the PSL started in 2016, it became an instant hit. All the teams followed the global way of how to make a franchise, a brand and in turn make it valuable. The level of emotion that I invest in this league is magnanimous. Being a Karachiite, I have supported the Karachi Kings right from the start, I have watched it win thrillers, seen it falter, feeling a part of it as the PSL editions have rolled out. Two years back when Karachi met Lahore in a must win game in Dubai and 10 were needed of the last 2 balls for Karachi to clinch the game, I could feel my heart beating faster with each passing second and on the last delivery before Pollard hit the six, my hands were dead cold due to all the nervousness, tension and excitement. I felt the greater emotions when the match between Lahore and Karachi was tied after Usman Khan’s no-ball and Lahore won it in the super over. When Quetta and Peshawar met each other twice in two years in the qualifier stage producing instant classic, even as a neutral I could feel the electricity and the goosebumps when Quetta celebrated both the times. Last year year too their eliminator was an instant classic, all because it was played at ‘’home’’ and Anwar Ali nearly did the unthinkable. These are just the few matches I have mentioned and almost all the matches were thrillers and had me caught at the edge of my seat.

Last year I had the privilege of watching the game that I so love and breath every second of my life. I watched the PSL final in Karachi with 30000 other passionate supporters who were there to witness the second homecoming of cricket in a city that has contributed immensely to the cricket of this country. It was euphoric!

PSL gave me something we, Pakistanis, could call their own. From a fan perspective it gave them a reason to support, and it is a no brainer why the brand PSL is now a box office hit. It gave fans the chance to embrace rivalries like Karachi-Lahore and Quetta-Peshawar. It was a breath of fresh air in a deteriorating sporting scenario of the country. It made watching cricket more meaningful. PSL will never be as big as the IPL as some of our delusional fans claim it to be, but according to me what is more important is that being a Pakistani PSL is my thing and owning it is what makes it big and valuable. This year the final is going to be held in Karachi along with 4 other matches and I am really looking forward to it. It is going to be big, it is going to be massive and when PSL comes home fully, it is going to be one of our greatest moments as a nation.

Mohammad Kaab Baig