KARACHI - Middle-order batsman Umar Akmal, who was omitted from the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) central contract list, has said he is working on his fitness in order to return to the national side.

Akmal last played an ODI in January against Australia, scoring a decent 46 off 40 balls, but has been making headlines for the all the wrong reasons since then. He was originally part of the Champions Trophy squad that eventually made history by winning the competition but Umar’s poor fitness meant he suffered the ignominy of being sent back home.

“It really hurt to miss out on the Champions Trophy, especially considering the importance of the tournament,” he was quoted as saying by a website. “I have a lot of regret for not being part of a team that created history by bringing the prestigious trophy back to Pakistan, but at the same time I am very happy for the boys. I admit that I had fitness issues and am trying to fix those in order to make a comeback.”

Umar was also dropped for the tour of the West Indies in April for similar reason and was the only player out of 31 to fail the fitness test during a camp held at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in March. The 27-year-old was to be part of the ongoing High Performance Camp organised by the PCB but pulled out of it due to a knee injury.

He informed the relevant officials — including NCA head coach Mushtaq Ahmed — and excused himself for five weeks, during which he intends to undergo rehabilitation with his private trainer in England.

“I have been working on my fitness here in England and my full focus is on cricket. I am putting in all my effort to fix this long-term issue,” he said. “I have been concentrating on all the things that have made me fail in the past and I believe that has helped me improve. However, I know there is still a long way to go for me.” The Lahore-born highlighted his passion for the game.

“I don’t have any other thing on my mind but to return to the national side. I want to return and make my parents and my country proud of me,” he said. “Cricket is everything for me. It feels bad to be out of the team and without a central contract but I have nobody to blame but myself.”

Umar was quick to refute the notion that he is out of the team for any other reason than the ones stated, saying that he has a good relation with the coach, the captain and the entire team.

The Lahore Qalandars star has been plagued by consistency issues but feels that he has to mend his game according to the situation. “All players want to score big in every match, but sometimes you have to accelerate and you risk your wicket when you go for quick runs,” he said. “I bat quite low down the order and that means I don’t have the luxury of building an innings or getting myself in.”

Umar was one of the names that came up during the spot-fixing scandal that plagued this year’s Pakistan Super League, but has since been cleared of all wrongdoing by the board. “I was being dragged into the fixing scandal but I appreciate the efforts of the PCB, who investigated the incident and found I had nothing to do with it.”