At 35, Pakistani Cricketer Fawad Alam Stands Vindicated
Fawad Alam is scoring centuries at 35, after years of being kept on the sidelines of Pakistani cricket.
The people of Karachi are no strangers to the term ‘victimisation’. An already long list of grievances continues to pile up with each passing day. From dealing with the high-handedness of the city’s leadership to moving on with their lives, if there’s one thing that the Karachiites have learnt over the years, it is the art of never giving up.
They are, arguably, more resilient, quirky, and street-smart than their fellow countrymen. After all, the city continues to thrive despite being subject to brutal violence in the past. It is, then, fitting that the city has produced some of the grittiest cricketers, who remained unmoved in the face of adversities, to have taken the field for Pakistan.
From Javed Miandad in the 1970s-80s to Rashid Latif and Moin Khan in the 1990s and Sarfaraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq in the 2010s, the city remained relevant on the cricket front and yet craved for the attention that Lahore or any other major city got.
Why? Because the people always felt that Karachi had more to offer. And while that may not always be true, it is the gospel truth in the case of Fawad Alam.
Born in Karachi on 8 October 1985, to a popular first-class Pakistani cricketer Tariq Alam, Fawad was destined to become a cricketer at a very young age. Under the guidance of his father, Fawad learned how to manoeuvre the ball through the gaps. But more importantly, he learned that in order to succeed, he must be accustomed to the importance of sacrifice because cricket is a cruel game and could demand of you something that you hold very dear. And as it would be proven later, in Fawad’s case, it was time.
His father used to be a decent cricketer, too, who, unfortunately, could never make the final cut.
Which is why Fawad has always cited him as his source of motivation. His father never gave up – neither when he could not make it to the men’s national team nor when his son was kept out of the side for 10 long years. In fact, he taught Fawad to be strong and be ready to take up any challenge.
When Fawad made his debut in 2009, Virat Kohli was still a prodigy who hadn’t even made his debut in Test cricket and was yet to score a century in international cricket. He has, since then, gone on to score 70 international centuries, amassed 7,318 Test runs and played 87 Tests. Whereas, Fawad has played only four Tests since then.
While he kept on scoring heaps of runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the country’s premier first-class tournament, year after year and season after season, he was never considered for a spot in the national team.
For context, Fawad averages a whopping 57 in first-class cricket, no other active Pakistani cricketer has an average of over 45. He amassed runs in an era when scoring was at its most difficult, owing to poor pitches used in Pakistani domestic circuit.
However, he caught the eye of everyone but the selectors.
In 2018, Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then chief selector, publicly said that he had seen better players than Fawad in the last three years, when pressure grew on Haq with regards to the cricketer’s selection.
His naysayers continue to defend and even call for his axing till date, stating that he does not have the technique to play in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa. Whereas, the truth is that he scored an epic century in the second innings on Day 5 of the Mount Maunganui Test against the Kiwis, which almost saw Pakistan draw the game. He dealt with the pace attack of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, and Kyle Jamieson patiently until he gloved one to Tom Latham off Neil Wagner after scoring a brilliant century.
His recent hundred came against the Proteas at his home ground, Karachi. This was his third hundred and the first that came in a winning cause. He was, fittingly, given the Man of the Match award for his century on a wicket where everyone but Fawad struggled. Even now, some of his critics think that it is only a matter of time before his technique will be exposed.
His doubters have also long argued that there was no place in the team for him since it was already very heavy loaded with the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. For the sake of argument, if one were to accept that justification, what was the logic behind his continuous omission from the team since Misbah’s and Younis’s retirement in 2017?
His fans are still bitter over the fact that he was deliberately kept out of the team wasting his prime years in the process. However, the man himself never once cried foul on media over non-selection issues. In fact, he has done the very opposite of it. He went back to the domestic circuit, scored runs and hoped for a nod from the selectors.
Fawad, in the process of proving how gritty the streets of Karachi have made him, also served a grim reminder to its dwellers. You can do and achieve great things even if the resources are not available at your disposal.
And as long as he is okay with spending 10 years in the wilderness and that’s what the destiny had in store for him. All of us should be glad for once that he never gave up on the hopes and dreams of playing for Pakistan.
His crab-like batting stance will continue to invite criticism from all corners, especially from underachieving cricketers-turned-commentators. However, he should pay no heed to such comments if it is working effectively for him. Because, as the legendary Kishore Kumar said, “Kuch tou log kahengay, logon ka kaam hai kehna!”
(The writer is a sports journalist based in Pakistan. He tweets @HumayounAK)
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