- The left-hander is among Pakistan's most-discussed players, yet with no reasonable explanation as to why so many years went by as he stayed in the wilderness
As sportspersons, the wrong side of your 30s is actually the time when the peak has in all likelihood passed. Life-after-retirement is being pondered over. In cases when talent has not been realised, maybe regrets kick in.
This is not the case for Fawad Alam, arguably among Pakistan's most-discussed players, yet with no reasonable explanation as to why so many years went by as he stayed in the wilderness.
However, once given, Fawad Tariq Alam, who will turn 36 in October, has grabbed the chance with both hands, an opportunity that should have come a long, long time ago.
There are always hurdles, at cricket and in your mind, and you need your family to support you in such times: Fawad Alam
Career progression, or lack of it
When Fawad scored 168 on his Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2009, none of the current Fab-Four -- Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root -- had even made their Test debut. Pakistan was also the reigning T20 world champions then.
However, despite maintaining an average of 60 and scoring over 10,000 runs in first-class cricket, he was kept away from the Test fold for over a decade – that’s the whole career span for more than half of the cricketers who have represented Pakistan.
Yet, when he returned, donning whites for the national side, he made it count the way no one else could. There were lots of ifs and buts surrounding his inclusion in the Test side at an age of 35; he dashed them to the ground with his performance and silenced his critics with the bat -- no other better way of doing it.
Just in the eight Tests since his return in 2020 against England, Fawad has scored four hundreds, making it a total of five centuries in an 11-Test match career that has spanned 12 years. The latest 100 came against the West Indies in Jamaica, which helped Pakistan level the series.
“When it rains, it pours,” is what he was quoted as saying on the cricket board website after the innings. “My mother had called before the first day of this Test. It was around 8 am here and she said that I'd get a hundred. I don't know how she just knew. My dad also spoke and wanted me to raise my bat once in the West Indies too.
“My motivation and inspiration has been my father. He's also been a cricketer and he's gone through his own ups and downs. So I listened to him and obeyed when times were tough. There are always hurdles, at cricket and in your mind, and you need your family to support you in such times. I was also lucky to have other people around me who always motivated me and never let me feel that my time was done. I am so thankful to each one of them.”
Fawad is also the fastest in Asia to reach the milestone of five Test hundreds. In just 22 innings, he has left behind the likes of Sunil Gavaskar (25), Cheteshwar Pujara (24), and Vijay Hazare (26).
Fawad's journey is not one of recovery, but persistence.
The grit, the promise, the resilience he shows in the middle are unmatched. All his hundreds, especially since his return, have come at a time when Pakistan was struggling.
In his first one against England in August 2020, he walked out to bat when Pakistan were 37/3.
Then came the Test against South Africa in January 2021. Pakistan were reeling at 27/4 when he walked out and saved the Test with a brilliant hundred. Then in Jamaica, August 2021, he came on to bat when with his team struggling on 2/3 and took the total to 302/9d on the back of an unbeaten 111-run innings. Thanks to his crucial morale-boosting innings, Pakistan went on to win the Test match.
Fawad now has a Test century in each continent where international cricket is played. He has two hundreds in Asia (against Sri Lanka and South Africa), one in Africa (against Zimbabwe), one in Australia (against New Zealand), and another against England (Europe).
Imagine what he could have achieved if it wasn’t for his forgone decade. Without indulging in the blame game, allow me to say that those 10 years he spent out of the Pakistan Test side were more damaging to Pakistan cricket than to his career.