Umar Akmal’s future with Lahore Qalandars is increasingly uncertain after a troubled campaign for the team and batsman. Six losses in nine games have left Lahore firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and Akmal’s poor form – and familiar questions about his attitude – have seen left him out of the squad. ESPNcricinfo understands that he has not even been travelling to the stadium with the side anymore. Regardless, as per the contract he has with the franchise, he will take home USD 160,000 at the end of the season.
That represents some fall for a player who lit up the league in its inaugural season, finishing as top scorer in 2016, making 335 runs at 83.75. He was less successful last season but was retained by Lahore and was always thought to be an important part of the side.
But after making just 57 runs in five games in the ongoing season he was dropped, the trouble beginning with a bizarre run-out during the group stage match against Peshawar Zalmi. Since his axing, he has been attending training sessions at the ICC academy.
The decision to drop Akmal, ESPNCricinfo understands, was a unanimous one, with team owners, managers, coaching staff and captain all on board. It is also understood that an upset Akmal has responded by sending angry messages to the team owners complaining about the captain Brendon McCullum talking to the media about him.
“Umar is a complicated guy and we all know he has well-documented troubles throughout his career,” McCullum told ESPNcricinfo. “But he is incredibly talented and he has done special things in his career and if his career has to finish now, I think it’s fair to say that he has underachieved.
“I think it’s a hard message and sometimes you need that, because as a cricketer you need to be honest with yourself and you need those who are prepared to be honest with you.”
This is not the first time Akmal has had a fallout with his team – it follows the pattern of his ouster from the Pakistan side. Last year his career took a major hit after the PCB had omitted him from the list of 35 centrally contracted players. He was the most notable omission, with his fitness having been a major concern.
He was then involved in a very public spat with national head coach Mickey Arthur, which subsequently led to the PCB slapping a three-game ban on him during domestic season and a fine of PKR 1 million. Besides that, the PCB also revoked all No-Objection Certificates issued to him for participation in overseas tournaments for two months, forcing him to miss the Bangladesh Premier League.
Having dropped Akmal, Lahore brought in overseas player Anton Devcich, who smacked a 42-ball 62, albeit in a losing cause, during the match against Islamabad United.
“We did not do it purely based on his performance,” said Aaqib Javed, Lahore’s head coach. “As a senior player there is a responsibility but when you are not able to deliver in five games then, as a team, you start thinking of trying something new before it is too late.
“We still had chance and we wanted to try our second options. Then we played our sixth match only to score our highest total in the tournament. We then went on to win our next three games. So now getting him back at this stage is difficult because the youngsters you trusted have delivered, it’s unfair if they don’t get more chances.
Aaqib also said that it was the management’s concern to look after and support an out-of-form senior player.
“We haven’t deserted him but we have allowed him to take a back seat and relax and think,” he said. “He has a full career ahead of him and it’s not the end of the road. He is a good player, and everyone has their ups and downs, but all you need is to show character and push yourself. He can do it and we expect him to do it.”