"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Remember this old adage? That’s how a teeny-tiny minority of fans overcome with nostalgia might feel about Umar Akmal.
A few years ago, he was the problem child of Pakistan cricket that almost everyone wanted to see the back of. And a few years before that, he was the hottest young batting talent in not just Pakistan but all of cricket.
What happened in between were loads and loads of moronic events, of which we don’t need to tell and you don’t need to be told. Just know that he has a separate subhead of “controversies” on his Wikipedia pages.
To sum it up, he feigned injuries, disobeyed umpires, fought traffic wardens, partied rowdily, demanded song replays at theatres, broke team curfews to watch Akon concerts and exposed himself to coaches.
Those are actually the lighter offences on his resume.
His biggest and the most serious one was not reporting two separate approaches by corrupt elements despite the Board going to great pains to prepare players for such a contingency.
Apologies for the digression. This piece was supposed to shine a good light on Akmal and here we are falling into the endless rabbit hole of Umar Akmal follies.
The dominating thought today is that whatever makes Akmal Jr such a bad boy also makes him so bloody good to watch. Think of a spectacular disaster staged for comedic relief. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
If you’re a Pakistan fan old enough to not be born in the Mr goody-goody Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi era, you would admit deep down that Akmal will be unmissable TV this PSL.
Just imagine the story lines he could spawn (we're not salivating, you are!).
What new stunt would he pull from his Alan-style satchel? Would he be the old Umar Akmal full of follies or would he be the old old Umar Akmal that possessed prodigious talent at such a young age? Or would he just be an old Umar Akmal now on the wrong side of 30 and probably wiser and calmer? What has two years away from the game done to him? Has it made him reflect and repent? Will he now be doing things any differently?
These are tons of Akmal-related queries that will be answered once and for all this PSL, and that generates excitement for Pakistan fans who follow cricket not just for simple runs and wickets but also for the overall entertainment it generates. And hate him or love him, Umar Akmal is pure entertainment or as Stephen A. Smith would say: "He's box office!"
If only, a certain Ahmed Shehzad aka the Selfie King, or the man who pioneered giving of unsolicited *Dawah* on the cricket field, had also found a taker. That would have made this PSL twice as fun.