August 27, 2014

All hail the new, macho Fawad Alam

He had phenomenal numbers before he sprouted luxuriant facial hair, but it seems Pakistanis have started to take him seriously only now
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Fawad Alam: alpha male
Fawad Alam: alpha male © AFP

One of the less celebrated aspects of Will Ferrell movies is the lampooning of ideas of masculinity. The characters he plays are often large, simple alpha males struggling to come to terms with a world where their conventional brawn and bluster are not of much use, and where they have to come to terms with navigating those curious things called feelings.

Yet in a time where very few men have to go out to hunt for their family's dinner, idealised versions of masculinity aren't quite dead. The recent trend of full beards becoming fashionable could perhaps be a way of reclaiming an idealised notion in a society where ideas of gender are constantly being shown up.

I should know. A combination of a round face, baby fat that was actually just normal fat, and a chin weaker than India's batting in away conditions, all meant that the ability to grow some hair to cover and contour my face was a much-awaited relief. The presence of a beard in this day and age is a way of fooling people into crediting you with attributes you don't necessarily possess, but the presence of which might help them take you more seriously.

It has certainly helped the case of Fawad Alam. Images from his recent matches on his ESPNcricinfo page repeatedly show Samson-like hair glowing in the sun and a bandit moustache glowering on his face. Take your search to Google Images and you will find Fawad on the garish sets of various Pakistani morning shows, where he's inevitably wearing a razor-sharp vest, has his hair slicked back and the tips of his moustache curled to a point. It all exudes an abundance of Y chromosomes.

But what caused Fawad to make these changes? I doubt they were part of a conscious strategy, but the new look comes across as perhaps a last throw of the dice to try to change how terribly he has been treated. Because the one thing that hasn't changed about Fawad are his mind-blowing numbers whenever and wherever he bats.

Even after accounting for the madcap tragedy of the Pakistan cricket administration's decisions, the story of Fawad is truly outrageous. Let's begin with his ODI appearances, where he started off being played so low down the order that he batted in only half of his first 28 matches, but still averaged 42. He then was part of the team that toured England and Australia and played South Africa in UAE. He averaged 39 abroad and 35.7 against South Africa, scoring fifties against each side. Yet after all this, he didn't play again for four years.

In Tests he became the first Pakistani to score a century on debut away from home, yet he only ever played four more innings for Pakistan. He was dropped two Tests after his hundred, his last being a match in New Zealand in which he outscored a man who would be retained for another 11 Tests, Imran Farhat. Despite averaging 42 in an age of a Pakistani batting famine, Fawad has never been selected for the Test side again.

Indeed, his last international appearances for Pakistan before this year were in a smattering of T20s, where he invariably batted too low down to matter. That was in 2010, and around that time, a blog was published on a Pakistani newspaper site calling for his inclusion in the Test side. The comments on that post highlighted how Pakistani society judges Fawad. Despite his stellar numbers, one person said: "People with little technical knowledge of cricket could easily identify his weaknesses." Another argued that "his sheer presence at the crease was demoralising for one and all, including his fellow team-mates, who like the viewers must have been left wondering about the kid stuff he had on offer." His body frame, technique and body language were relentlessly attacked in the 200-plus comments, and one person went so far as to paraphrase a number of quotes from the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and apply them to Fawad.

An absolutely disastrous four years for Pakistani cricket after that incident saw the team's batting regress. Eventually Fawad was called back and his return to the ODI side saw him play a leading part in two chases that went at over six runs an over (something the team hadn't done in three years) and scoring a hundred in between in the Asia Cup final. Yet when an Osman Samiuddin article celebrating his exploits was published after the tournament, the majority of comments on it implied that everyone seemed to have known of Fawad's potential all along.

As someone who has used facial hair in order to be taken more seriously, I know quite well that Fawad's acceptance has been predicated on something as ridiculous as his now-ample whiskers. After all, his numbers have been just as phenomenal as before, while his technique hasn't deviated from its unorthodoxy. He is just as valuable an addition to the team now as he was back then. Yet almost a decade of his career was wasted because he seemingly didn't fit an imaginary ideal of what a Pakistani player should look like - though all those who look like they fit the bill have been absolutely terrible.

And even with the beard and moustache, I fear Fawad's redemption might not yet come. Even though he has been piling up the runs, he has never been judged by them. Instead, unless he loads up on steroids and starts wearing the skins of animals he has hunted with his bare hands, he could still end up being discarded for a batsman who doesn't know where his stumps are but has wide shoulders.

Ahmer Naqvi is a journalist, writer and teacher. He writes on cricket for various publications, and co-hosts the online cricket show Pace is Pace Yaar. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mainul079080 on August 31, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    A great and timely article. But i do regret a lot about Fawad Alam, whom i say the best batsman in Pakistan,better than Younis and Misbah since his debut. His talent has been wasted in a brutal way only for the sake of the opposition. Pakistanis are very much cricket lovers,very much passionate but not very knowledgable ones about cricket. As this article suggest,i also saw tons of comments bantering Fawad about his technique in a Pakistani popular cricket blog when he started to blossom and praising Azhar,Shafiq,Umar Amin,Nasir who are actually much inferior batsmen than Fawad.They are mad fans of Afridi,who i think is the luckyiest cricketer ever because he played 381 ODIs with such an awful mindset and sense of responsibility.Fawad dont need to win the heart of their countrymen. What he needs is a continuous run in all formats. Then it will be a matter of time for him to be a legend. From a Bangladeshi fan of gread Fawad Alam.

  • on August 30, 2014, 19:40 GMT

    Chill man!! Just a fighting knock.. Wait for some test odyssey down under!!

  • on August 30, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    I dont get the point why PCB is not selecting him in test squads because technically he is a better defensive player rather than chasing in critical situations but still he is playing good part in playing down the order, but in my opinion he should replace with umar akmal batting order as umar always wants to throw his wicket away.

  • xylofon on August 29, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    This wasnt an article about Misbah but Id like to share one thought: why not test captain? He is not aggressive enough for ODI cricket but is a decent batsman and in the form of his life. Just make him the test captain, let hafeez be the ODI captain and haris sohail or ahmed shehzad T20 captain. Something like that.

  • on August 28, 2014, 22:47 GMT

    I don't expect any good from PCB, the only consistent player who scored in every inning with a very good strike rate has been sent back to Pakistan and I really don't know why Sarfaraz Ahmad been sent back to Pakistan while he was in the form of his life ?

  • on August 28, 2014, 21:20 GMT

    It was a crime to waste almost a decade of Fawad Alam. He should have played the 2011 world cup. So unfortunate.

  • on August 28, 2014, 20:37 GMT

    phenomenal numbers? seriously?

  • DavidWarner on August 28, 2014, 20:21 GMT

    My friend, your chin is weaker than Indian batting? Well, you should be glad that it's not as weak as your team, Pakistani batting, in any conditions.. If you did, you'd be the only person who could live with no chin..

    At least, Indians are being beaten by a superior English attack, under English conditions.. How do you explain Pakistan being handed their hides by Sri Lanka, in batting conditions more docile than the Indian pitches?

    From an Indian fan, very much enjoying the sight of the hapless Pakistani batting order being humiliated by the Lankans. Long may your misery continue.. Maybe a sign of the things to come in next year's world cup?

  • on August 28, 2014, 19:13 GMT

    I heard a story from a person which i would like to share with you. So this guy follows Pakistan's under 19 cricket and he interviewed an allrounder who had racked up some pretty good numbers. He asked him who his inspiration was and the boy's answer was Shahid Afridi. When the person asked the boy who was a greater batsman, Shahid Afridi and Zaheer Abbas, the boy answered, "obviously Shahid Afridi is miles ahead of Zaheer Abbas."

  • on August 28, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Misbah is good for nothing. All he brings to the team is pressure by blocking each and every ball for about 10 over or more. He he doesn't know how to hit the ball then why holding the bat. I have played cricket all my life but I have never seen such a weak captain like misbah like it or not that's my opinion.

  • mainul079080 on August 31, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    A great and timely article. But i do regret a lot about Fawad Alam, whom i say the best batsman in Pakistan,better than Younis and Misbah since his debut. His talent has been wasted in a brutal way only for the sake of the opposition. Pakistanis are very much cricket lovers,very much passionate but not very knowledgable ones about cricket. As this article suggest,i also saw tons of comments bantering Fawad about his technique in a Pakistani popular cricket blog when he started to blossom and praising Azhar,Shafiq,Umar Amin,Nasir who are actually much inferior batsmen than Fawad.They are mad fans of Afridi,who i think is the luckyiest cricketer ever because he played 381 ODIs with such an awful mindset and sense of responsibility.Fawad dont need to win the heart of their countrymen. What he needs is a continuous run in all formats. Then it will be a matter of time for him to be a legend. From a Bangladeshi fan of gread Fawad Alam.

  • on August 30, 2014, 19:40 GMT

    Chill man!! Just a fighting knock.. Wait for some test odyssey down under!!

  • on August 30, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    I dont get the point why PCB is not selecting him in test squads because technically he is a better defensive player rather than chasing in critical situations but still he is playing good part in playing down the order, but in my opinion he should replace with umar akmal batting order as umar always wants to throw his wicket away.

  • xylofon on August 29, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    This wasnt an article about Misbah but Id like to share one thought: why not test captain? He is not aggressive enough for ODI cricket but is a decent batsman and in the form of his life. Just make him the test captain, let hafeez be the ODI captain and haris sohail or ahmed shehzad T20 captain. Something like that.

  • on August 28, 2014, 22:47 GMT

    I don't expect any good from PCB, the only consistent player who scored in every inning with a very good strike rate has been sent back to Pakistan and I really don't know why Sarfaraz Ahmad been sent back to Pakistan while he was in the form of his life ?

  • on August 28, 2014, 21:20 GMT

    It was a crime to waste almost a decade of Fawad Alam. He should have played the 2011 world cup. So unfortunate.

  • on August 28, 2014, 20:37 GMT

    phenomenal numbers? seriously?

  • DavidWarner on August 28, 2014, 20:21 GMT

    My friend, your chin is weaker than Indian batting? Well, you should be glad that it's not as weak as your team, Pakistani batting, in any conditions.. If you did, you'd be the only person who could live with no chin..

    At least, Indians are being beaten by a superior English attack, under English conditions.. How do you explain Pakistan being handed their hides by Sri Lanka, in batting conditions more docile than the Indian pitches?

    From an Indian fan, very much enjoying the sight of the hapless Pakistani batting order being humiliated by the Lankans. Long may your misery continue.. Maybe a sign of the things to come in next year's world cup?

  • on August 28, 2014, 19:13 GMT

    I heard a story from a person which i would like to share with you. So this guy follows Pakistan's under 19 cricket and he interviewed an allrounder who had racked up some pretty good numbers. He asked him who his inspiration was and the boy's answer was Shahid Afridi. When the person asked the boy who was a greater batsman, Shahid Afridi and Zaheer Abbas, the boy answered, "obviously Shahid Afridi is miles ahead of Zaheer Abbas."

  • on August 28, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Misbah is good for nothing. All he brings to the team is pressure by blocking each and every ball for about 10 over or more. He he doesn't know how to hit the ball then why holding the bat. I have played cricket all my life but I have never seen such a weak captain like misbah like it or not that's my opinion.

  • on August 28, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    Contd.... Misbah needs to be given confidence and support so that he regains his form and leads the team better. Someone close to Misbah needs to advise him and ask him to alter his game slightly. In the mean time Fawad needs to be groomed and polished, so as to become a captain in future. I wish greens shirts all the best. ( Love & support from Kashmir)

  • on August 28, 2014, 17:07 GMT

    Dear Ahmer,

    Thanks for penning this down. How tragic is it that the PCB selectors think, it seems no differently than some irrational fans. Many including me have repeatedly said that Sharjeel Khan does not have that thing in him for the international cricket. Why are selectors so short sighted that they can't see it.

    Regarding Fawad, i have a funny feeling. I think he can be a future leader. He has those qualities in him. Let me explain how. A good captain is one around whom the other players play and perform. Players feel at ease when batting around such a captain and it brings the best out of them. Fawad is indeed such material. It is certainly too early to say this, but he can be groomed to be a future captain. As well, the irrational fans crazy about Afridi magic should stop putting pressure on the board to axe Misbah. Misbah seems to have gone haywire of late. A dip in form at this age can be disastrous for him. But Pakistan have no other choice. ( Continued on next comment)

  • on August 28, 2014, 14:18 GMT

    who cares about 6's when u can rotate the strike consistently......... who cares about technique or your stance, when u can consistently pile up runs hope he gets as continuous runs at least in the ODIs.

  • on August 28, 2014, 14:10 GMT

    I have long being ridiculed for looking at numbers rather then his unorthodox stand. Let me say it now now as I said it before, Ijaz Ahmed had a illustrious career with an unorthodox stand. Chanderpaul unorthodoxy was criticized earlier in his career for his technique. All of them shut their critics down with sheer number of runs they have scored. I think fawad has earned his chance to do the same in test and ODI. Finally Inzi and Yousuf have ruined the legacy of Pakistan cricket when it comes to running between wickets. Miandad and many before him very excellent runners , Fawad bring that skill back into the team. If he can rub off on the next generation of cricketers, our cricket will be at a much better place.

  • xylofon on August 28, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    Batman needs Robin...you guys crack me up. Very true and splendid way to describe Fawads role in Pak XI.

    Everyone who played a good knock around Fawads recent knocks are inconsistent players including Maqsood. Fawad is the consistent batsman. Unofortunately he was used in T20 where he doesnt belong. Test & ODI suit him fine. Fawd is the most unselfish batsman and he rotates superbly. Imagine we have him at nr 3 or 4 after the powerplay in ODI or maybe even as a opening batsman, im not sure if hes ok with that, but it would mean people like akmal and afridi could do real damage to the opposition around his anchor role. With Nasir JAmshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and with Babar Azam, Sami Aslam & Imam ul Haq around the corner Pakistan has all the batting goods for the future. We just need to see fairness from the selectors. With our bowlers we could take on anyone in ODI and T20 for sure.

  • on August 28, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    Our cricket team depicts the culture and society we will live. We are always looking for heroes, batman who can save us from all evils. But we forget that even Batman needs Robin. It's not entirely our public fault either, we've had heroes like those in abundance. Imran/Wasim/Miandad/Inzi to name a few. But Every team needs a batsman who can play second fiddle, who can get the Umar Akmal's and Sohaib Maqsood's of this world to feel special before they can switch roles and take control. I believe once Misbah is gone, Fawad is the natural leader and the glue which will hold the team together and it's a no brainer for me to include him in test team. Since all the spots apart from opening are taken up, he would have to make do with opening to secure his place before moving lower down the order to cement his place permanently.

  • RajitRajaram on August 28, 2014, 9:43 GMT

    Poor chap has been given a rough deal something common in India and Pakistan more than other places, though Phil Hughes may wish to disagree! However come the World Cup, what are the chances, the Holy Trinity of Shoaib Malik / Kamran Akmal and Razzaq wont be back? I am betting on at least 2 of those 3 and if the wind is in the right direction, then Imran Farhat as well! Poor Fawad can look as hirsute as he wishes but may still need a TV set come World Cup time, to watch any action

  • on August 28, 2014, 7:24 GMT

    Fawad Alam reminds me of the early 2000's version od Allen Iverson of the NBA. Pound for pound fighter till the end. "We talkin 'bout practice"?? Lol

  • Inamullah_Khan on August 28, 2014, 7:22 GMT

    Agree with you. I was one of those who initially were a bit confused at his inclusion, and at that time also, it was more due to the position at which he was sent in, rather than undermining his skills. Fawad is an interesting player, nudging and nurdling around, and eventually picking up the pace as well, though if sent higher up the order like he is now, he would make more of an impact. In fact, if Pakistan want to give the slot currently reserved for Misbah / Younis, I think he could be one of the candidates, since he can carry the innings. Still, great purple patch for Fawad and eventually for Pakistan, wish the best of luck to our team and the player as well.

  • m0se on August 28, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    Fawad Alam badly needs a haircut. He looks like he's living in the jungle for some time when in the field. But, looks solid when he's batting. Pakistan really have to fix their openers. At least there is something after Misbah now but before Pakistan were already 3 down before their innings really begins. Whatever happened to Nasir Jamshed? Him (during the times he was in form) and Shezad would make a good opening partnership. Umar Akmal is refusing to mature and they should replace him with the test keeper.

  • hamqad on August 28, 2014, 1:04 GMT

    I can bet he will be dropped again after a couple of bad outings. Such is the bias against Fawad Alam. Talent wasted.

  • on August 27, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Fawad Alam, Sami Aslam and Sohaib Maqsood should be part of any Pakistani team. An integral part.

  • BlueJayBanter on August 27, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    There seems to be no other logical reason for his continued exclusion from the side. So I will have to agree. Maybe they were seeking someone more marketable? Now that he has a controlled smattering of facial hair that resembles a pakistani version of jadeja, he might see more games. Hopefully he is included in the test team. And for Gods sake, please include Sadaf Hussain. Its becoming silly now. Good article.

  • aa61761 on August 27, 2014, 14:22 GMT

    Fawad is a good batsman, but being good is not enough to get into Pakistani team. More than anything you need connections and it looks like Fawad lacks in this department. Pakistani public cares about the team results but PCB officials don't give a damn about results, PCB officials are only interested in nepotism or regionalism.

  • on August 27, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    This was an interesting article and I am starting to agree with you a little bit. Perhaps there is more criteria than just mere performance that we end up judging players by

  • Waqas_Tofique on August 27, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    I have always valued Fawad Alam...I can see the little things that he always tries to do on the field. He has something which other contemporary Pakistani cricketers lack - the fire in belly, Karachi's grit. He is a fighter for a wee man that he is.

    I will bring up an example. In a crucial Pak v NZL T20 wcup game, in 2008, it was fawad alam's ordinary catch at cover position and the subsequent celebration which sparked Pakistan to demolish NZL team who, otherwise, had made a good start to their innings. People might remember Afridi's running backwards catch or Umar Gul's 5 wickets from that game. But, in cricket, there are small details which influence results in greater scheme of things. Sadly, not many pay attention to the details.

    P.S. Karachi produces the best batsmen in Pakistan and they have some qualities in common - street smartness, gritty attitude (Javed Miandad, Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam) Saeed Anwar - but he was all class and elegance.

  • on August 27, 2014, 13:14 GMT

    Fantastic piece of writting, great fact finding data to get a serious issue into the public domain. Also hightlighted some great biased which is so evident in selection of the team.

  • AbuZoraiz on August 27, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    Spot on & I really enjoyed the way, you associated his changed appearance with the acceptance of our general cricketing public. In fact, I assure you, I am really going to cherish this for a long time to come :) Thanks for the wonderful piece of writing!

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  • AbuZoraiz on August 27, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    Spot on & I really enjoyed the way, you associated his changed appearance with the acceptance of our general cricketing public. In fact, I assure you, I am really going to cherish this for a long time to come :) Thanks for the wonderful piece of writing!

  • on August 27, 2014, 13:14 GMT

    Fantastic piece of writting, great fact finding data to get a serious issue into the public domain. Also hightlighted some great biased which is so evident in selection of the team.

  • Waqas_Tofique on August 27, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    I have always valued Fawad Alam...I can see the little things that he always tries to do on the field. He has something which other contemporary Pakistani cricketers lack - the fire in belly, Karachi's grit. He is a fighter for a wee man that he is.

    I will bring up an example. In a crucial Pak v NZL T20 wcup game, in 2008, it was fawad alam's ordinary catch at cover position and the subsequent celebration which sparked Pakistan to demolish NZL team who, otherwise, had made a good start to their innings. People might remember Afridi's running backwards catch or Umar Gul's 5 wickets from that game. But, in cricket, there are small details which influence results in greater scheme of things. Sadly, not many pay attention to the details.

    P.S. Karachi produces the best batsmen in Pakistan and they have some qualities in common - street smartness, gritty attitude (Javed Miandad, Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam) Saeed Anwar - but he was all class and elegance.

  • on August 27, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    This was an interesting article and I am starting to agree with you a little bit. Perhaps there is more criteria than just mere performance that we end up judging players by

  • aa61761 on August 27, 2014, 14:22 GMT

    Fawad is a good batsman, but being good is not enough to get into Pakistani team. More than anything you need connections and it looks like Fawad lacks in this department. Pakistani public cares about the team results but PCB officials don't give a damn about results, PCB officials are only interested in nepotism or regionalism.

  • BlueJayBanter on August 27, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    There seems to be no other logical reason for his continued exclusion from the side. So I will have to agree. Maybe they were seeking someone more marketable? Now that he has a controlled smattering of facial hair that resembles a pakistani version of jadeja, he might see more games. Hopefully he is included in the test team. And for Gods sake, please include Sadaf Hussain. Its becoming silly now. Good article.

  • on August 27, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Fawad Alam, Sami Aslam and Sohaib Maqsood should be part of any Pakistani team. An integral part.

  • hamqad on August 28, 2014, 1:04 GMT

    I can bet he will be dropped again after a couple of bad outings. Such is the bias against Fawad Alam. Talent wasted.

  • m0se on August 28, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    Fawad Alam badly needs a haircut. He looks like he's living in the jungle for some time when in the field. But, looks solid when he's batting. Pakistan really have to fix their openers. At least there is something after Misbah now but before Pakistan were already 3 down before their innings really begins. Whatever happened to Nasir Jamshed? Him (during the times he was in form) and Shezad would make a good opening partnership. Umar Akmal is refusing to mature and they should replace him with the test keeper.

  • Inamullah_Khan on August 28, 2014, 7:22 GMT

    Agree with you. I was one of those who initially were a bit confused at his inclusion, and at that time also, it was more due to the position at which he was sent in, rather than undermining his skills. Fawad is an interesting player, nudging and nurdling around, and eventually picking up the pace as well, though if sent higher up the order like he is now, he would make more of an impact. In fact, if Pakistan want to give the slot currently reserved for Misbah / Younis, I think he could be one of the candidates, since he can carry the innings. Still, great purple patch for Fawad and eventually for Pakistan, wish the best of luck to our team and the player as well.