For over a decade the burden of Pakistan's middle order was on the shoulders of Inzamam Ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan.
While for the last three years it has been the YoYos with no one stepping up and playing the role that Inzamam used to play for Pakistan.
However a year ago, a 19 year old boy made his debut for Pakistan and immediately made a stunning impact. Over the last year, Umar Akmal, has shown the world that he can single handedly take the game away from the opposition.
He has been the anchor of Pakistan's batting line up, he has been the aggressor, he has been the accumulator, and he has been the backbone all in one!
I haven't seen a Pakistani batsman make such an impact in international cricket since 1991 when a 21 year old Inzamam Ul Haq made his debut.
Such is the extent of Umar's talent that Waqar Younis has hailed him as the most talented cricketer he has seen in the last 15-20 years!
That is quite a bold statement given the number of talented cricketers that Australia, Pakistan, India, and other teams have produced over the last 2 decades.
There are so many that I can't even begin to list them here.
So how good is Umar Akmal really?
A test century on debut, a fifty in his second ODI and a hundred in his third, an average nearing 50 in tests and nearing 40 in ODIs, a number of match winning innings in limited overs cricket, and over 500 runs in both formats of the game.
All this and he's been around for only a year. A year that can be described as possibly Pakistan's worst year in international cricket.
Very few batsmen attack the ball the way he does; and very few batsmen are at such ease at the crease as Umar is.
In my mind the five modern day batsmen that have had a significant impact on the game, in both tests and ODIs, are Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, and Inzamam Ul Haq.
All of them have had distinguished careers, while some of them are still going strong.
Its not right to place Umar Akmal in the same category as these great batsmen, but the way he has played over the last one year, I have no doubt that Umar will go on to become one of the greatest batsmen of his time.
The table below shows how the launch of Umar's test career compares with that of the modern day greats of the world.
Sachin, Kallis, and Inzamam had relatively slow starts to their test careers. Umar's initial record is quite similar to Brian Lara's; and even though the data set is too small to make a judgement, the similarity between Umar's strokeplay and Lara's is quite apparent.
Both play fearless cricket and attack the bowlers confidently. Umar's confidence was clear when he took on Australia in Australia late last year.
Only Lara scored more, only slightly, than Umar has in his first 12 innings at the test level.
While in ODIs, Umar has scored more runs in his first 18 innings, than Sachin, Kallis, Ponting, and Lara did. Only Inzamam, whom Umar has comfortably replaced in Pakistan's batting line up, scored more in the first 18 ODI innings.
Surprisingly, Kallis also had a bright start to his ODI career with him averaging above 40 in his first 18 innings.
All of these men went on to become exceptional batsmen; only time will tell if Umar can match up to them.
So far all signs show that he can and he will. I haven't seen any weaknesses that bowlers can exploit; every time he has lost his wicket, it has been due to playing an aggressive stroke.
I doubt Umar's aggression will ever decrease; Lara batted aggressively till his last day on the field, while Ponting does so even now. Umar seems to be in the same mould.
As he matures and gains experience, some of his rash strokes will decrease naturally making him into an even more dangerous batsman.
Umar has a long road ahead of him and as long as he can remain disciplined, I believe he will go down in history as one of the best batsmen to play for Pakistan.
Maybe even in the world.