Why Fawad Alam hasn’t played much for Pakistan over the past decade will perhaps remain a mystery that goes deep into the future. Why Fawad Alam won’t be playing for Pakistan next month is a decision so shocking that pushes itself outside the realm of mystery – it also, arguably, more than sufficiently addresses the aforementioned query.
A week since Pakistan’s squad for tests in Ireland and England next month was announced, the gaping omission of Fawad Alam has been the prime talking point in the sporting fraternity. Let’s divide this question into the aforementioned two segments that perhaps would help address it best.
A decade ago Fawad had the exact billing of the sort of cricketer that would go on to represent Pakistan in the limited-overs cricket in the next few years – could bat, could bowl, could field, even if he didn’t quite excel in any one of those particular fields.
Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez, Imad Wasim, and perhaps more controversially Shahid Afridi belong to this cateogory of ‘all-rounders’ who weren’t really all-rounders in the traditional sense, but could do jobs of varying degrees. Despite a prolonged absence looming for Malik back then, he had evolved into a batsman who would very rarely bowl, while Afridi had become a bowler, who more often than not would bat, but to limited successes.
Even so, Fawad Alam lacked the explosiveness that meant he was often overlooked for others who, at least on paper, would be able to score at a faster pace, and cleared the boundary with significantly more ease. The likes of Umar Akmal, if you will.
That is why Fawad never quite got a run in the ODI and T20 sides. Even the runs he scored in the 2014 Asia Cup, truth be told, weren’t easy on the eye – not that they have to, but it showed that he wasn’t in his comfort zone.
Fawad Alam is, and will remain, a prodigiously better Test batsman than he is in limited-overs – notice how none of the Pakistan Super League sides have him in their squad.
And so we go back to Colombo, 2009 and the 168 on debut – albeit in a losing cause – that proves this very point.
Despite that dogged century in Sri Lanka, Fawad Alam has only been able to play three Tests for Pakistan in nine years. However, the unparalleled successes that the Test squad witnessed under Misbah-ul-Haq in this decade, meant that whatever they were doing was working, and hence couldn’t be criticised.
Also, this era had a middle order featuring Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, all of whom were irreplaceable.
Now fast forward to May 2017, when Misbah and Younis (MisYou) retired in unison following Pakistan’s first ever series win in the West Indies. That’s 16,000 runs, over three decades of experience, leaving a successful side in unison.
And so, it was understood that Fawad’s time has come because there were not one, but two – technically three, if we consider the fact that Azhar had been opening for Pakistan over the previous year – slots that were crying out for an experienced head.
In October 2017, the only Test series that Pakistan have played since MisYou’s retirement, Fawad was again overlooked. Pakistan would go on to be clean swept 2-0 – their first ever series defeat in the UAE.
Now, whatever the reason was for Fawad Alam not being picked in October – although one can only wager on investing in the youth as being the only logical one – considering the ominous defeat against Sri Lanka at ‘home’, Pakistan needed to stuff their batting lineup with experience to face England in England.
And yet Fawad – with an average of 55.37 in first-class cricket in 145 innings – wasn’t picked in the squad again.
Of course, the inclusion of Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, has made that decision all the more repulsive. And if we notice the overall squad, especially the batsmen, it’s almost as if the composition has been decided in order to defend Imam’s selection over Fawad – which ironically Inzi made a meal of when the question was posed to him.
Even though the two do not have no way near the combined first class experience as Fawad, Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali scored more runs than him in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy last season, so they’ve been preferred on the basis of one season – and ostensibly their youth.
But what about Imam, whose numbers don’t compare to Fawad in any season? Oh well, he’s an opener. And to further drive home that point, Fakhar Zaman has also been selected, even though he and Imam collectively wouldn’t be as helpful for Pakistan in England, as Fawad’s experience would’ve been.
But hey Imam and Fakhar are the best openers among the youngest lot and hence both were picked, even though Azhar Ali will open the innings in all likelihood, leaving three openers – including Sami Aslam – for one slot. Then to prove that the ‘criteria is youth’, Saad and Usman were picked over Fawad in the middle-order.
And that’s how it’s done.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.
Of course, the inclusion of Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, has made that decision all the more repulsive.