Why Fawad Alam has been frozen out of Pakistan squads

Published November 29, 2019
Fawad Alam is too unconventional a player for Misbah-ul-Haq  and his band of purists to take a risk on. — AFP/File
Fawad Alam is too unconventional a player for Misbah-ul-Haq and his band of purists to take a risk on. — AFP/File

Pakistan cricket has its own unique way of inducting and discarding talent. Sure, talent matters a great deal but so does the time, the regime and the people in charge. That is why even if you’re out of the side at one time, there is always hope that you’d be back at someone else’s expense when there's a new command.

The adequately talented simply need to wait their turn or wait for the next disastrous result, because when that happens, the incumbents make way for whoever had been waiting in the wings.

It’s a set system. And it is why both Moin Khan and Rashid Latif got games in the 90s even though one was clearly better than the other. It is why Ijaz Ahmed at one point went from being on the sidelines for months to becoming a captaincy candidate.

This unwritten rule, however, is for the normal folks. There exists a select group of players who no captain, no head coach and no chief selector will dare touch — because in doing so, they risk opening a can of worms better left unattended.

Fawad Alam is from that unfortunate group. And so is Tabish Khan — also from Karachi — but we'll save him for some other time.

Read: Fawad Alam's fitness score puts younger cricketers to shame

Fawad has a 40-plus batting average in both Tests and ODIs — rarities for Pakistani batsmen. While his international numbers are rare, his domestic ones are in a league of their own.

Here's an example: no Pakistani batsman ever from any era and of any class has a better first class average than Fawad’s 56.57.

He recently became the second-fastest to complete 12,000 first class runs. The only batsman to do it quicker than him was the great Mohammad Hanif. That shows what statistical company he keeps in the domestic circuit.

Read: Fawad, Sarfraz shine as Sindh dominate

Through the first nine rounds of the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, he hit two centuries and a double century, the latter of which came on Wednesday.

So many runs accumulated over so many years, yet he last played for Pakistan in 2015. An equally greater travesty is that he has only ever been given three Tests, the last of which came a decade ago in 2009.

Over the years, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials, coaches and captains have all appreciated his game but never offered him a way back in. No explanation exists as to why the PCB is hell bent on wasting someone who has been the country’s most successful domestic batsman by a long mile.

The closest anyone came was former chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, who had famously said last year: "I have seen better players than Fawad Alam."

The operative word in Inzamam’s remarks was "seen".

Observe Fawad’s stance. It exudes anything but style. The square-on stance comes from Shivanarine Chanderpaul and Craig McMillian’s school of thought, and is plain out ugly.

It’s not just limited to stance. Fawad’s entire batting process seems laboured. When he hits a boundary, it shows on his entire body. What’s missing? Elegance.

Unfortunately for him, Pakistan cricket is still operating on classic principles where stylish failures have more of a chance than successful grinders. It is why Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad, with their picture-perfect drives and textbook pulls, have more of a chance than the southpaw.

Fawad’s greatest misfortune is that he fails the 'eye test'. It makes one wonder what Pakistani selectors would have done had Steve Smith, with his unorthodox style, been a Pakistani too.

Then there is another aspect to the debate. Fawad’s case has been discussed and championed so much, it has almost become a no-go area for the board and the new coach and selector.

If given a chance now and if he succeeds, imagine what the backlash would be like for the PCB to have wasted this 34-year-old’s prime cricketing years. Misbah-ul-Haq, who famously did not pick Fawad for the entirety of his captaincy, would be held directly responsible.

And so cricket fans, don’t hold your breath when the squad for the Sri Lanka Test series is announced next month. Fawad is too ugly/unconventional a player for Misbah and his band of purists to take a risk on.

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