LAHORE: Fawad Alam is a sensitive topic for Pakistan cricket fans. With an average 56.38 in his 220 First class innings, he is the third most prolific first-class batsmen to play at the first class level in the world since the turn of the century.
Which is why any time there is an announcement of a squad for a series, home or away, a frustrating question that everyone asks is: Why is Fawad Alam not in the team?
And it’s a logical question too. For someone so prolific, a leading run scorer and consistent first class performer that also bowls handy left arm spin, Fawad Alam is mercilessly sidelined.
The fact becomes even more potent when one considers that Fawad Alam has a very presentable international track record as well, with an average hovering above the forties.
Given his good performance, willingness to continue the domestic trudge, as well as his silent bearing of his international drought, it is easy to feel a great sense of empathy for him.
Which is why it was so crucial when, yesterday, after his meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Najam Sethi was asked about Fawad Alam’s non-inclusion in the team, again. Any answer from the PCB on this pressing and frustrating matter would go far.
But this time, the question’s angle was a little different.
“Is Fawad Alam being deliberately ignored while players like Imamul Haq are being given precedence?”
To his credit, Najam Sethi answered the question well and as a chairman ought to. One could have expected a frustrated sigh, a scrunched nose and a tired response from previous PCB chief and career diplomat Shehreyar Khan if he were asked the same question.
Sethi responded the way a chairman should have. He said he could only recommend someone to the selectors but he could not force them into making a decision, and that this question should be directed at Chief Selector Inzamamul Haq.
This is, of course, procedurally correct given that the board chairman is the manager of the organisation that really does not have much to do with specific cricketing decisions.
But even Sethi seemed to be a fan of Fawad, suggesting to the media that they should perhaps pressurise Inzamamul Haq into selecting Fawad Alam through some sort of media campaign to see him in the team while he is still in his prime.
As for the matter of his selection, it must be kept in mind that teams are not only selected on the basis of domestic or international performance. If that were the case, selection would be a simple matter of numbers that a computer could do instead of an entire panel of cricket experts.
During selection, selectors look to make necessary combinations and see what player fits in what place of the cricket team. And while his performance may be extraordinary, one cannot imagine exactly where Fawad would come in the current Pakistan team structure. Already finding itself with players like Harris Sohail, and Babar Azam, there really does not seem to be any space.
And while it is unfair to bring Imam, nephew of Inzimam, into the matter, one can see that he too was called in to fill in for Ahmed Shehzad’s constant lack of form. One feels he too may take a seat once Azhar Ali is fit again.
However, at any point in the near future when Shoaib Malik or Mohammad Hafeez hang up their boots or a clear spot shows up, it should naturally be filled by Fawad Alam, the silent warrior that keeps on chugging like the little engine that puff without a word of complaint.
So it really isn’t a matter of if, but rather when.