Fawad Alam plays his third Test match at Dunedin against New Zealand in what is Pakistan’s first Test of the tour. They play two more Tests, but Alam wasn’t part of those teams.
A year later, Pakistan selector Mohsin Khan identifies him, along with a few others, as all-format players who can shine for Pakistan. He plays ODIs in 2010, scores at an average in the mid-30s, but plays no international cricket after that till 2014. Even then, there is no Test return.
A decade after he last played Test cricket, Fawad Alam is recalled to the Test team to take on Sri Lanka in an upcoming Test series.
Everything has changed for Pakistan cricket in these 10 years. Well, not everything, because he comes back to the side at a time they are rolling back the clock. Sample this.
Fawad last played a Test in 2009, also the same year Pakistan last played Tests at home in Pakistan. At the time, Fawad played last in whites, Pakistan are ranked 6th in the ICC Test rankings. As he makes a comeback a decade later, Pakistan are no.8 in Tests and are about to play their first Test series in Pakistan in a decade.
In these 10 years, Misbah-ul-Haq took Pakistan to no. 1 in the ICC Test rankings (2016 August), but since his retirement, things have gone massively downhill for Pakistan. With their batting coming apart in Australia (Yasir Shah scored a century though), they went back to the one man who has been piling on the runs in domestic cricket – Fawad Alam.
Fawad’s domestic record speaks for itself. An average in the mid-50s with 34 hundreds and 60 half-centuries points towards a batsman capable of being a mainstay in the Pakistan side. Yet, he is 34 years old now, and in these interim 10 years, Fawad has played no part in Pakistan’s journey.
He was recalled to the ODI side in 2015 after the World Cup debacle but was dropped after one series. In the same year, he shone for Pakistan A against Sri Lanka, averaging 99.5 in the unofficial ODI series and just under 50 in the unofficial Tests.
Despite being part of the Test side on that Sri Lanka tour and later in England’s visit to UAE, Fawad played no games. Before a return tour of England, Fawad scored runs at an average of 56 and topped the fitness Tests but was left out.
Last year, before the England tour, Fawad once again shone in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy on very difficult batting wickets, and gets called up to the 25-man training camp, but he wasn’t picked as part of the 16-man touring party.
Now, after multiple trials and errors in the middle-order, Pakistan have finally gone back to their domestic veteran. Misbah is now the coach of this side. Fawad is a senior batsman in the side and will replace Ifthikar Ahmed, who is a much lesser all-rounder than Fawad himself.
Nothing has changed in Pakistan cricket in these 10 years, except that Fawad did not play. Their Test rankings spiked, but came down as quickly. Their batting frailties disappeared, but re-appeared as quickly. Captains changed, coaches changed, but Fawad remained out of favour.
The 24-year old who played at Dunedin would surely have expected to play more Tests by now. Instead, he will be back playing home Tests in 2019, as though it’s the next tour after New Zealand in 2009. As far as Pakistan in Pakistan goes, that might be true too.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Arif Ali