Cricket World Cup 2011
Akmal's place safe for now
Kamran Akmal (AFP)
Pallekele - Coach Waqar Younis is not willing to dump struggling wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal even after his woeful performance behind the stumps played a key part in Pakistan suffering one of its worst ever defeats in the Cricket World Cup.
But all bets are off when the dust settles from the one-day tournament.
New Zealander Ross Taylor went onto to score a career-best 131 off 124 balls on Tuesday, with Akmal twice letting the Kiwi batsman off the hook - on 0 and 4.
The 110-run margin of defeat came close to Pakistan's biggest ever loss in the World Cup when England recorded a 112-run victory in 2003 at Centurion, South Africa.
"Without a doubt, he dropped catches which really cost us the game," Younis said of Akmal's poor work behind the stumps.
"We are in the middle of the tournament, we can't really sort of kick him out at the moment."
Akmal has had big question marks hanging over his performance for over a year now since Australia whitewashed Pakistan in Test, one-day and twenty20 series last year.
The out-of-form wicketkeeper also erred during Pakistan's narrow 11-run win over co-host Sri Lanka last week when he twice missed opportunities to stump Kumar Sangakkara.
Akmal also dropped Scott Styris, which would have given captain Shahid Afridi his 16th wicket in the tournament on Tuesday.
Asked whether it was time to think about someone else for the wicketkeeper's job, Younis insisted the World Cup was not the ideal time to think along those lines.
"After World Cup I think maybe we can think about it," he said. "We are in the middle of the tournament and I don't think we can make such a change."
Younis said Pakistan had a few days before it takes on Zimbabwe on March 14 at Pallekele, near Kandy, but conceded time was running out for Akmal to make amends.
"We have five days off, we will try to rectify his mistakes," he said. "In such a short time we can't rectify all his mistakes but we can always try."
Pakistan has beaten Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada in its first three matches while batting first before failing miserably in the run-chase against the confident Black Caps.
Former Australian batsman Ian Chappell, now commentating at the World Cup, was as blunt as ever. "If his batting was as good as Don Bradman's," he said on air, "he couldn't score enough runs to make up for what he costs them with his keeping."
Akmal is Pakistan's latest attempt at a batsman who keeps wicket. He dethroned Rashid Latif and Moin Khan in 2004 and has been behind the stumps since, resisting all attempts to drop him.
Afridi told Pakistan's private television channel Geo News that the younger Akmal - Umar could replace Kamran at the World Cup.
"It is very much an option and we might try it in the next game," Afridi said. "We have five days before the next game so whatever is better for the team we will try it."
Kamran has a one-day international batting average of 27.25 and has scored 2,835 runs in more than 100 appearances. His elegant batting is widely admired, but his wicketkeeping has overshadowed his batting performances of the past two years.
Pakistan next plays against Zimbabwe on March 14 and victory could ensure it a place in the quarterfinals before the game against Australia on March 19 in Colombo.