Fawad eager to make up for lost time
Fawad Alam was 24 years old when, at Colombo in July 2009, he scored a remarkable 168 on Test debut against Sri Lanka. However, he played just two more Tests thereafter before being banished from the squad for six long years.
He turned 30 last week, and as if to celebrate, he is back in the reckoning. He is a member of Pakistan's squad for the first Test against England, overdue reward for five solid years in which he has maintained a domestic batting average in excess of 50.
Oddly, Fawad hasn't been completely overlooked by the selectors in the intervening years. His career has included 38 ODIs and 24 T20s, although that format's frenzied requirements are not exactly to his liking, as a highest score of 28 would imply. Test cricket's tempo seems much more in tune with his strengths, and for that reason he sees the coming series as the chance for a new beginning.
"I am feeling like I got a debut call for Test cricket," Alam told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the first Test in Abu Dhabi. "Five years is a huge gap as I last played a Test when I was like 24 or 25. So this all makes me feel like I am picked up for the very first time and I have to re-gather my thoughts and I am excited for the chance."
Despite regular recalls to Pakistan's limited-overs squads, neither the team management or the selection committee have ever made him a part of their long-term planning. His response has been to become a bona fide domestic giant, with 17 of his 23 first-class hundreds coming in the years since his exile. Though he tended to do enough in ODI cricket to warrant a place in the next series, he has always been easy prey for Pakistan's selectorial whims. But any opportunity to play for his country is one that he embraces.
"Its not about what is the right format for me, it's about how I manage myself and how I switch myself for the respective format," he says. "It is unfair to say that Test cricket is the right format for me. Whatever the chance I get in any format, that's the best for me. "A good player is a good player who can play every format and adjust himself accordingly. I might not have been able to continue after 2009 but whatever chance I got I tried my best to give my best. My job as a professional player is to play cricket, whatever the role I am given, and I am out here to grab every opportunity."
Alam's long absence from the Test squad has been mitigated, in the selectors' eyes, by the wealth of talent that has been at their disposal. The team has been unusually stable under Misbah-ul-Haq but the captain himself has hinted, at the age of 41, that this series might be his last, while Younis Khan won't continue much longer either.
"We never got to have a chance to pick him in the Test squad because there is a well-settled 15 men for the Test and we can't afford to dislodge it," Haroon Rasheed, the chief selector, said. "He had always been in our minds but we always wait for the room to fit him in."
Fawad had not expected to be named in the squad for the England series, but he is keeping his fingers crossed now that he has made it this far. "I am not sure if I will make into the playing XI but I can assure that I can do my best to make a difference with my performance. It's entirely up to the team management but I am ready for anything."
His awkward batting stance has, he believes, been overplayed . He might not have the physique to crash boundaries at will but he backs himself in any situation. "The perception about having an old-school technique is bookish talk," he says. "Whatever it is, old school or gold school, I don't believe it. It has nothing to with the practical cricket as, whatever the way I play, I am scoring runs and that is much more important. If I am not scoring runs you have every right to point that out, but I am scoring runs, whatever the way I bat.
"I understand we all get to improve every day, and I know the things I need to manage. So I can only say a player should be judged on his performance. That is the answer to everyone who doubts me."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson