There are always two ways of learning from what we see people around us doing or not doing. The commonly recommended way is to do what good others are doing or not to do what others are not doing so that we may also be good like them. But the most effective learning comes when you avoid doing things that others are doing while making a fool of themselves. That being the case, there is a world of learning that may interest budding cricketers watching Umar Akmal’s latest antics.

The chap has spent almost eight years in public life and all the euphoria he generated in the first few months of his arrival on the scene got to his head so much and so completely that it left space for nothing else; not even, apparently, for the brain which for him appears to be an organic liability rather than a critical mass. To him life somehow got frozen in time — in 2009, to be precise. To him he is still the player he was in those few fleeting months when he batted big. He could get away with a few things for a few more months, but beyond that he had been a liability of what can safely be described as ‘Akmalian’ proportions.

Yes, he was young at the time and it is understandably difficult, if not impossible, to be humble and nice in that phase when you are being praised as the boy wonder by many. But eight years is a long time for anyone to convert his brain into a mind by making use of the grey cells. It is said that life is a great teacher, but one has to be a decent student to learn something — anything at all — from even life. He could never learn when to just shut up.

For Umar Akmal life seems to have frozen in time. As far as he is concerned, he is still the player who delivered the goods for a few fleeting months some eight years ago

His latest spat with coach Mickey Arthur is just a confirmation that he doesn’t intend to do it any time soon. The coach, according to him, ‘abused’ and ‘insulted’ him for being unfit. Regardless of what the coach may or may not have said, one ends up recalling all those incidents where Akmal ‘abused’ his place in the side and ‘insulted’ the followers and fans with his frolics off the field and his misery on the field. A saner head would have preferred to digest whatever he got in the name of abuse. There are times when one has to lie low and live to fight another day. But sanity and Akmal avoid each other like the proverbial plague and it is almost criminal to mention the two in the same breath … or in the same sentence!

So he went public with a presser. And the funniest part in the whole fracas was the twist Akmal tried to give it. Let’s hear it from the man himself. “He [Mickey] shouldn’t be swearing at me like that, it is like he is abusing all of Pakistan … I want to reveal this to the public and to all my fans. I request the [PCB] chairman to take this issue very seriously. When the head coach is allowed to swear at someone, that is unacceptable. As a Pakistani, I could not stomach it.”

Well, what can one say? Except, perhaps, WOW! Abusing Umar Akmal is like abusing Pakistan. He is Pakistan personified. That is some bizarre level of grandiosity. And, in practical terms, it comes down to what? That an unfit Akmal means an unfit Pakistan? It will be some office other than that of the PCB chairman which might feel interested in taking “this issue very seriously.”

With a total of three centuries in as many as 212 outings across eight years and three formats, he is hardly a player to be taken seriously by anyone. Two of those three precious centuries were scored in 2009. The third one came in 2014, which, by his standard, is pretty recent. But it came against, of all the sides, against Afghanistan. These are facts that should make people stop taking themselves seriously, but we are talking of Akmal here.

Somebody needs to tell him that arrogance has to be earned with action and sustained with deeds. Nobody is asking him to be nice and humble. Indiscriminate niceness, in any case, is an over-rated commodity. If he loves to be an arrogant brat, it is his choice. But being in the public eye, he has to deliver and he has not done that. The equation is pretty simple. Get your act together, let your actions — of the cricketing variety — speak for themselves. And till that happens, just lie low.

Umar Akmal is probably never going to follow the plan, but budding cricketers will do well to take this lesson from his travails. If that happens, it will be Akmal’s biggest contribution to Pakistan cricket.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 27th, 2017



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