Boxing Day is considered a festival for cricket fans as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa play their home Test after Christmas.
On July 12 2009, Pakistan’s 196th Test cricketer – 23-year-old Fawad Alam – received his maiden Test cap.
Scoring 168 in Pakistan’s second innings on debut, Alam had shown he had the mettle to succeed in Test cricket.
But for some reason, Alam would only play a further two Tests in 2009 before receiving the axe by the Pakistan team management. It was a big blow for the Pakistan youngster.
Only runs in Pakistan’s first-class tournament (the Quaid-e-Azam trophy) would receive a recall into the Pakistan team in the longest format.
The following figures show Alam’s numbers over every Quaid-e-Azam season since he was dropped from the Test team.
Bar a slight mishap in the 2017-18 Quaid-e-Azam trophy, Alam’s average was over 45 in every Pakistani first-class season since his axing from the Pakistan Test side. With a Shivnarine Chanderpaul-esque batting stance, Alam churned out the runs non-stop. Despite being a run-scoring machine consistently, Fawad Alam was always overlooked for players more known for their potential rather than consistency.
In fact, Pakistan chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had said that he had seen better players than Fawad over the past three years in an interview with ESPN Cricinfo in April 2018. Fawad Alam’s continuous omissions would anger Pakistan fans with the likes of Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez and many more players being selected over Alam.
Alam would have to wait until December 2019 to be recalled into the Pakistan Test squad – over ten years had passed since the Karachi-born batsman was last named in the Pakistan Test squad. Although Alam wouldn’t play in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, at least his name was in the squad to keep the Pakistan fans semi-happy.
Named in Pakistan’s squad to tour England this year, Pakistan fans were hopeful of Alam finally playing his first Test in over a decade. A dry Manchester pitch would see Pakistan opt for a second leg spinner in Shadab Khan over Alam. Shadab would bowl a mere 11.3 overs in the match as England won by three wickets in a thriller.
As the second Test in Southampton came by, a harder pitch with not much spin on offer would lead to the long wait being over. Fawad Alam was finally playing his first Test match in over 128 months. Brought into the playing XI over Shadab Khan, my Facebook feed was filled with cheerful posts by Pakistan fans on cricket groups expressing their delight at Alam’s inclusion. And why not? He scored runs domestic cricket consistently, never complained at being excluded and was rewarded for his patience.
Before Alam’s Test debut, Alam had scored 5222 first-class runs at an average of 52.75 with ten first-class hundreds. His reward for his consistency? A mere three Tests before being dropped.
Scoring run after run after his axing, Alam scored a shade under 7000 first-class runs at a better fifty-to-hundred conversion rate to force his way back into the Pakistan Test XI. Almost 11 years of hard work, perseverance and patience has come down to this moment.
And patience isn’t something new to Fawad Alam. It’s in his blood. His father Tariq Alam had played over 100 first-class matches between 1974 to 1994 at a decent batting average then, yet never played a game for Pakistan.
Now 34, Fawad Alam comes into the Pakistan Test team as a domestic veteran playing his fourth Test match in Southampton. With a first-class average of 56.78, Alam has shown his ability to score runs in domestic cricket. If given the long run he deserves like Babar Azam did, Pakistan will have found another late international bloomer for the first time since Misbah-ul-Haq was recalled in 2010.
Welcome back to Test cricket, Fawad Alam.