Four players — Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, and Fawad Alam — were deemed the fittest cricketers of the cohort that intensively trained at PMA Kakul. Their inclusion in the squad was assumed a done deal as Inzamam-ul-Haq, in his new role as the chief selector, vowed to prioritise players that meet ‘a certain fitness criteria’.
Yet, Fawad was axed for reasons known only to Inzamam.
Eager to board the plane for England and return to the Test arena after seven years, Fawad has learnt to make peace with such treatment.
“I’m used to [this treatment]. This is nothing new for me,” he laments as he breaks eye contact and looks to the ground to gather his thoughts.
His fabulous fitness coupled with outstanding domestic performances over the years have pushed the case for his Test comeback this summer, but the Inzamam-led selection committee has ignored him altogether.
“Everything happens according to God’s will. My faith is strong. If I say I’m not disheartened I’d be lying to myself.
“I am disheartened and why shouldn’t I be? But that’s only for that time. You have to move on and look forward.”
The left-handed batsman, who also bowls left-arm orthodox, has been overlooked umpteen times despite being a promising answer to Pakistan’s batting woes, and an electrifying fielder to watch.
A consistent performer on the First-class circuit, Fawad has scored at a staggering average of 57 since his debut in 2003.
His irregular batting stance has remained under scrutiny and Fawad reveals he developed the front-on batting stance – an unorthodox stance that baffles many cricket experts around the world – unintentionally.
“The domestic contests are not televised. When I saw myself on TV I was also surprised,” he chuckles.
“I’ve tried to change it, however. The renowned players say it boils down to the accumulation of runs in the end. Sometimes I also face trouble because of the stance, but I try to manage.”
Fawad demonstrated his magnificence with the bat two years ago when he was given a run in the Asia Cup. In his first ODI after four years, he scored a match saving 70-ball 74 during Pakistan’s chase of a daunting 326 against Bangladesh.
As if that wasn’t enough, he scored his maiden ODI century in the very next game against Sri Lanka to take Pakistan to a respectable 260 from a disastrous start in the tournament final.
But Fawad’s career has been marked with consistent heartbreaking results. Despite his remarkable average of 69 runs in eight ODIs in 2014, he was dropped from the ICC World Cup 2015 squad.
When asked whether it was the tough competition at the top-level that hindered his entry to the national team, he simply stated, “It’s a tough question to answer.”
He is well aware that he has been a consistent performer and recalls his career’s achievements to strengthen his case for an international comeback.
“I should play better and continue to work on my fitness. My father understands and supports me and cricket does not stop here. If I am not representing Pakistan, I’m playing domestic.”
‘My father is my coach’
Aged 17 when he made it to competitive cricket, Fawad’s initial cricket-grooming was done by his father Tariq Alam — also a former First-class cricketer.
“I developed the liking for cricket by watching my father play first-class and club matches. I never missed a match when he played. My father and uncles used to discuss cricket at home. That initiated my cricket grooming,” says Fawad, who has donned the Pakistan Test cap only thrice in his seven-year long career.
Tariq Alam has played 109 First-class and 64 List-A matches for House Building Finance Corporation, Karachi, and Sindh, and uses experience from a career spanning two decades to help his son understand the technicalities of the game.
And Fawad often seeks Tariq’s advice – “my father is my coach”.
Like many professional coaches around the world, Tariq doesn’t meddle with his son’s technique but tells him to work on his strengths.
“My father is the greatest inspiration for me,” he says, wearing a big smile.
But that smile disappears as soon as I ask him to comment on the 21-man probable list for the Test-leg of the upcoming England tour.
“They say there is a new beginning after every ending and I am trying to do my work and play cricket. I do not criticise anyone. I criticise myself, so, I get better.”
Idolising Younis Khan
Fawad grew up idolising Saeed Anwar and the West Indian batting great Brian Charles Lara. Now, he looks up to Younis Khan.
“Whenever I sit with him [Younis Khan], I get to learn. He instils positivity in a player. He boosts an ordinary person with confidence and makes them believe they can achieve anything they want to.
“Younis bhai is a pinnacle of mental toughness,” he says.
The veteran was present at the crease along with Fawad when the southpaw achieved an unprecedented landmark to become the first ever Pakistani cricketer to score a century on his debut overseas.
“When I scored my maiden hundred, Younis bhai told me that I will give you something when you walk out..”
Not having opened in a cricket match before, Fawad was drafted in the playing XI for the second Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo as an opener.
He got out for just 16 in the first innings but impressed two days later with a tremendous 259-ball 168 in Pakistan’s total of 320 runs.
“It gave me a lot of confidence to see my captain work on me. He stood with me for hours in the nets, forgoing his training.”
Fawad credits the then-skipper for the achievement. “It was Younis bhai after God behind the knock.”
“When I scored my maiden hundred, Younis bhai told me that I will give you something when you walk out. It was a tape-ball on which he had written ‘Fawad Alam Debut Century’ when I was batting in my first innings.”
“After the end of the evening session on the second day when we walked out and I was sitting in the pavilion, he threw that ball at me. It gave me so much confidence. It was because of him that I was able to do it. Then next day I scored another 68 runs and went on to become the first Pakistani batsman to score a century on debut overseas. I am grateful to God.”
Fawad is hopeful he will make a comeback to international cricket soon.
While announcing the Test squad for England, Inzamam had said, “Those who are not in the squad haven’t been ignored and they may find themselves in the limited-overs squads.”
He keeps his fingers crossed!