KARACHI: It is a very rare occurrence that a cricketer scores century on Test debut and is then cast aside 17 months later altogether for no fault of his. This has exactly happened with Fawad Alam whose claims have been constantly overlooked by the national selectors despite the player performing consistently in domestic competitions for the last three seasons.
The left-handed batsman, still relatively young with his 28th birthday around the corner (Oct 8), last played for Pakistan on the New Zealand tour on the Boxing Day in 2010 at Auckland’s Eden Park in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals.
Fawad, who got married to former Pakistan batsman Mansoor Akhtar’s daughter in November 2011 in Karachi, hails from a cricketing family since his father Tariq Alam and paternal uncle Rafat Alam both extensively played first-class cricket for various teams between 1974 and 1994.
But as of now Fawad faces an uncertain future as far as his aspiration to resurrect his international career is concerned after participating in just three Tests, 27 One-day Internationals (603 runs at 37.68) and 24 Twenty20 Internationals plus having been a member of the triumphant Pakistan team that won the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 in England under Younis Khan’s captaincy.
A prolific performer in all formats, the Karachi-born cricketer averages a staggering 55.96 after 96 first-class appearances with an undefeated 296 — for the National Bank of Pakistan against Pakistan Customs in a Quaid-i-Azam Trophy fixture at the NBP Sports Complex in January 2009 — being his highest score among 19 centuries. Fawad is also rated among the country’s top fielders.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn on Wednesday, Fawad expressed his desire to reclaim his spot in the national squad particularly at a time when questions are often asked of how brittle Pakistan’s batting has become in the wake of low team totals in Test matches.
“Of course, like any other player who has been sidelined, I’m not only desperate to make the squad but utterly frustrated by the manner in which I have been treated. Nobody in the competent authority ever spoke to me as to why I had been left out [of the national side] and the reasons behind the decision,” Fawad lamented.
“This attitude [of the cricket board] has hurt me a lot. The pain [of not being part of Pakistan team] just won’t go away. If the criterion of selection is based on performances then this system should be applicable for each individual.”
Fawad argued there is definitely something wrong down the line in Pakistan cricket. “Obviously, any player in my place would be devastated and feel deeply disappointed if the selectors continue to ignore the individual’s performances. My first-class batting average over the past five seasons has been 44.00 or more and thrice I averaged above 60,” Fawad said.
“I was not considered for the West Indies tour in 2011 despite making 534 runs in five matches of the Pentangular Cup [adjudged tournament’s best batsman] which was very disappointing. I’m not the sort of person who would be complaining but this is how cricket or any other sport is conducted in our country.”
Fawad is the first of just two batsmen — Umar Akmal is the other — to score century overseas among the 12 Pakistanis who reached three figures on Test debut when the left-hander batted for 384 minutes to pile up 168 in the second innings of the match Sri Lanka won at Colombo’s P. Sara Stadium in July 2009 to wrap the series against Younis Khan’s side.
“It was a wonderful moment in my life to register a century in my first Test. But it would have been nice had we won [that match] because that would kept the series alive before the third Test,” Fawad, who is also a handy left-arm spinner, recalled.
“The whole game was like a dream because I was told just two days before that match that I would be playing and that too as an opener [regular choice Salman Butt was indisposed], something I had never done in my life!
“But Younis was very supportive and had even predicted that I would be scoring century on debut. When a captain backs you like that one’s confidence surely skyrockets. I really felt in the zone after making 16 in the first innings. In fact, so sure was Younis that he had pre-written on the ball ‘Fawad Alam debut 100’ and had put his signature on it.
“In fact, Younis was batting with me when I completed my century. After congratulating me, the skipper said he had got something for me which he would present him in the dressing room. It was an indescribable feeling inside to know that the captain believed so much in me. A captain like Younis can change your entire perspective about the game.”
Sadly, Fawad figured in further two Tests before being unceremoniously axed after Pakistan lost to New Zealand at the University Oval in Dunedin, while his ODI career lasted until the offshore series against South Africa in November 2010.
“But I’m more determined than ever to make a comeback because I think positively and working harder than before to keep myself fit and performing,” Fawad concluded.