Cricket: Legend in the shadows

Not only did he score a century on debut, he also became the first and only Pakistani player to do so overseas.

When he walked out to bat for the very first time in a Test match, Fawad Alam knew he had already made his father proud by earning the green cap. Not only did he score a century on debut, he also became the first and only Pakistani player to do so overseas. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be a match-winning effort and Pakistan lost the match, but for a brief moment it looked like Pakistan had chanced upon a batting prodigy.

Born in Karachi in a cricket-loving family, Fawad Alam hasn’t had a smooth sailing in international cricket so far. Despite scoring 10,172 runs in first class cricket at a staggering batting average of 56.51, he continues to get ignored by the selectors for reasons best known to them only.

Keeping in mind the woes of the Pakistani batting line-up, even his doubters believe that he deserves to be given a fair chance. Having developed a cult following in the last three years or so, the Fawad fandom has been running #JusticeForFawad campaigns on social media following his exclusion from the team.

Speaking to Eos, Fawad opens up about how disappointed he feels when he is overlooked by the selectors, his hopes of making a comeback and how he manages to remain fit at all times.

First things first, you have been leading the domestic batting charts over the years and yet the selectors have turned a blind eye to you. Why?

Fawad Alam: To be honest, I don’t have a clue why I don’t get selected. I try to give my hundred percent in every season that I play. I believe as a player you can only perform and hope for the best. The rest is up to the selectors. I can’t help but think that maybe I am being tested by Almighty Allah. I mean there is no other reason that I can think of. As a Muslim, it is also our belief that only the people who are dear to Him are tested by Him. I find solace in the fact that maybe I am one of them.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have recently retired from Test cricket leaving two spots vacant in the middle order. Do you see yourself making a comeback now that those spots are up for grabs?

FA: There is no one who can replace Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. The contributions of Misbah Bhai and Younis Bhai to Pakistan cricket are too huge to even list here. Pakistan cricket was in the doldrums when they took charge of the team. They have done a tremendous job and it is there for everyone to see.

As far as making a comeback is concerned, like I said before, one can only hope that I will play for Pakistan. It’s not like opportunities didn’t come before. There was a time when the ODI team also had two to three open spots. But for some reason, I wasn’t selected in the team.

You will be turning 32 in October this year. Do you think the time for you to make a comeback is running out?

FA: Age is just a number and Misbah Bhai is a living example of that. He came back in the team in his mid 30s when most of the players usually retire from cricket. It is up to you how dedicated you are towards your cause. You have to keep your feet on the ground, remain fit, trust your abilities and above all, trust the Almighty.

Was it disappointing to not be selected by any Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise this year?

FA: I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel anything. I felt really disappointed. On the one hand, you are winning the domestic T20 championship for your region, and on the other, you are not even considered for Pakistan’s premier T20 league. Of course, it is bound to demoralize you, but I am used to this kind of treatment now. If you take a look at my career, this has been the pattern so far.

There are actually some players who weren’t even in the regional teams and yet they were playing the PSL. Anyway, an additional franchise has been added for the next edition of the PSL so hopefully I won’t get ignored this time.

Have you ever discussed your selection issues with the head coach or selectors?

FA: No, I haven’t talked to anyone. And I don’t plan to do so either. I have always believed in letting my bat do the talking for me. A player’s job is to give his best. And that’s what I do. He should not rely on others to get in the team. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you just don’t get the desired results, do you? But I believe that my hard work will pay off someday and I will represent Pakistan soon.

Many of your contemporaries have either moved or threatened to move to the UK, Australia and South Africa for better prospects. Why haven’t you done that?

FA: Nobody knew who Fawad Alam was until I represented Pakistan on the big stage. Whatever success and popularity I have achieved, I owe it all to Pakistan. I will never think of leaving my country. I will forever be indebted to Pakistan for giving me so much. My family lives here. I was brought up here. How can I leave my identity and my family behind? I have always taken great pride in wearing the green shirt and will continue to do so.

It is difficult for anyone to keep playing with the same zeal after having been excluded countless times from the team. What keeps you motivated?

FA: My father Tariq Alam is my source of motivation. If it were not for his efforts, I wouldn’t be playing cricket in the first place. I am here because of him. I want to realise his dream of watching me play for Pakistan more consistently.

My father used to be a decent cricketer himself but unfortunately he never got a breakthrough. He shrugged off his non-selection and told me that he’d be very happy to see me donning Pakistan colours. It is because of him and my mother’s prayers that I have played whatever I have played so far.

Pakistan’s middle order has been under scrutiny of late. If given a chance, what position would you like to bat on in ODIs?

FA: I don’t have a problem with playing at any position. It doesn’t matter what position you are playing at. What matters most is the fact that you are playing for Pakistan. Nobody should take their place in the team for granted. I am not the kind of guy who would go and request to play at a specific number. It is for this very reason that I have played at number eight and nine in Canada and won a match for Pakistan. Like I said before, it is your passion for playing for Pakistan that counts the most.

It emerged from a fitness camp last year that you were one of the four players who were in shape? What do you do to remain fit?

FA: Actually, according to the final results, I was the fittest of all 35-40 players participating in the fitness camp. I don’t claim to be a fitness freak. But I do take my training very seriously.

I have a strict diet plan that forbids me from eating desi cuisines. Of course it is tempting when all your family members and friends are enjoying traditional food but once you realise what is at stake, it becomes easy for you to resist that urge. I don’t take my workout and running for granted either. Even in England where running is difficult because of constant rain, I try my best to run a few miles.

Is there any truth to the rumors that you can’t hit sixes at will?

FA: If you have followed the domestic T20s and the games that I have played, you’ll notice that I can hit the ball hard. I think my performances speak volumes for I have won games for Pakistan from unlikely positions. Unfortunately, you can’t do much if people make up their minds about you and are very rigid about their opinions.

How have you evolved your game over the years?

FA: If by evolving the game you mean increasing the strike rate, I must tell you that it was never on the dull side. I believe that every player learns a new lesson every day. But having said that, a player only improves when he gets to play. How can you expect a player to improve significantly when he is out of the team?

Which club are you currently playing for in England?

FA: I am playing multiple tournaments in the Lancashire league for Clitheroe in England. I started the season earlier this year in April and will continue till September. My performances have been pretty decent so far and it is always good to be playing in England. Alhamdullilah, I am having a great time here and enjoying playing in different conditions.

 

Content sourced from Dawn, EOS

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