October 08, 1985, Karachi
Left hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
Top order batter
Fawad Alam, son of Pakistan's famous first-class cricketer Tariq Alam, made his first-class debut at the age of 17. He was duly picked to represent Pakistan at the U-19 World Cup based on his performances with Pakistan Customs and Karachi on the domestic circuit.
An unbeaten 43 in the semi-final against India not only guided Pakistan to the final (which they went on to win), but also marked his status as an immensely talented left-handed allrounder (something that Pakistan agonisingly lacks).
He was then named in the U-19 squad to play the touring Sri Lankans and South Africa Academy teams. That same year, he was invited to join the National Cricket Academy (NCA), a pool of talented individuals to be groomed for the elite level.
His real breakthrough was the 2006-07 season where Fawad outshone the rest by miles. He guided Karachi Dolphins to the final of the Twenty20 Cup (losing to defending champions Sialkot Stallions) where he not only grabbed a five-wicket haul and scored a valiant 54, but also went home with the Man of the Final, Man of the Series, Best Batsman and Best Bowler awards.
He also scored heavily in the longer version of the game namely the Quaid-e-Azam trophy where he finished as the fifth highest run-scorer. In the shorter version of the game, he turned out to be a useful ingredient of the National Bank mix that lifted the Patron's Cup, almost carried Karachi Dolphins to the ABN AMRO Cup final (second highest run-scorer and highest wicket-taker in the competition).
After an intense, but profitable, first-class season, Fawad was selected to captain the Pakistan Academy's tour of Bangladesh where his performance was deemed adequate enough for a call to the national squad. Fawad, however, failed to shine on his international debut in the searing Abu Dhabi conditions aged 21. Surprisingly not required to bowl at all, Fawad also fell first ball to cap off a lacklustre debut. The selectors, however, kept their trust in the young allrounder, giving him opportunities in Pakistan's limited-overs squads. Fawad was the leading run-getter during Pakistan Academy's tour of Africa in September-October 2008; he scored 302 not out in a four-day game against Kenya.
Presumably that would set Fawad up for a long, illustrious career? Well, yes, but also very much no. A call-up to a Test tour of Sri Lanka saw him score 168 on debut, but after two further Tests with few runs to his name, he was dropped. That's usually not too big a worry in Pakistan; people keep getting dropped and picked up again almost every other series, but what would happen to Fawad was Kafkaesque in its surreal nightmarishness.
Fawad became one of the most prolific first-class batsmen in Pakistan cricket history, and holds the record for the highest batting average for any Pakistan first-class batter ever. That has been true since 2013, and from the 2015-16 season onwards, no one in Pakistan score more first-class runs. He averaged in the high 50s with 40 first-class hundreds; no batsman on the domestic circuit ever really coming close.
But for the next 11 years, coaches and selectors in Pakistan produced streams of reasons that rendered him ill-suited to the international stage. Batters with decidedly inferior records were called up, enjoyed a few Tests here and there, but the door was firmly shut on Fawad. In this time, he went through a stylistic transformation of his own; his crab-like batting stance means he's side-on, almost facing mid-on, when the bowler runs in, like a Shivnarine Chanderpaul tribute act. It might look ugly, but the results were phenomenal.
Finally, in 2019, Fawad was called up to the national side for a home series against Sri Lanka, fittingly enough, but continued to warm the bench for the best part of a further year. He got his chance in England, and on that long-awaited return, managed only a four-ball duck. Quality, however, ultimately shines through, and a heroic fourth innings hundred in Mount Maunganui that took Pakistan to within minutes of securing an impossible draw finally marked his return to where he truly belonged: the highest level of the game.
A century in an attritional home win against South Africa followed a month later, and a couple more in Zimbabwe and West Indies in 2021. At 35, Fawad's career has a second wind, but he might wonder if he got a fair crack of his first.
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