10 years and 259 days. The 3910-day gap between Fawad Alam’s last Test in 2009 and to his selection for the second Test against England in the second match at Southampton has come as a massive sigh of relief for Pakistan fans.
A lot has changed in the world during the period when he did not play for Pakistan, which amounts to a good 88 Tests.
Lewis Hamilton had won only one F1 title, the fab 4 of Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root were not even playing Tests, India won the ICC World Cup and Champions Trophy, Novak Djokovic had not made big strides in the tennis world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were on the path to greatness while Misbah-ul-Haq was not the captain of the Pakistan side.
Fawad Alam’s inclusion comes after years of toiling hard in the domestic circuit for Pakistan. He is averaging 56 in First Class cricket, better than Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Hanif Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas and current batting coach Younis Khan, all certified greats.
During his last first-class stint with Sindh in 2019, he had scores of 107,65,211 and 116 in four consecutive innings. In his first series against Sri Lanka in 2009, he smashed 168 on debut while in ODIs, he averaged 40.
In his last two series against Australia and Bangladesh prior and after the 2015 World Cup, Fawad Alam underperformed and that led to his exile from the team for five more years in the limited-overs arena.
So, what wrong did Fawad Alam do? The answer is – No one knows. Indiscipline, Pakistan’s opaque revolving door policy, inconsistency?
We will never know. What we do know is that Fawad Alam’s near 11-year wait to come back in the Pakistan Test team is over. Surprisingly, this is not the longest gap in between Test matches for a player.
A 22-year itch
There have been 25 players who had a gap of 10 years or plus between Tests due to unforeseen circumstances. Fawad Alam is only the second Pakistan player after Younis Ahmed to have such a big gap.
Younis Ahmed played two Tests in 1969 against New Zealand where he scored a gritty fifty but was ignored afterwards. Shockingly, in 1987, after a gap of 17 years and 311 days, he was called back into the Test team for the Test series against India.
However, the world record for the longest gap is 22 years and 222 days. This individual’s background is global in every sense of the word. John Traicos is the only Egyptian born cricketer to have played at the international stage.
The 23-year-old offspinner played four Tests for South Africa in the 1969/70 series which the Proteas won by whitewashing Australia 4-0. However, that series was the last for South Africa as they were banned from cricket due to the government’s apartheid policies.
Shockingly, 22 years later at the age of 45, Traicos turned up and played the first Test for the new nation of Zimbabwe in their match at Harare in 1992. Traicos wheeled away for 50 overs and picked up 5/86 with the price scalp of Sachin Tendulkar for 0. It was indeed a miraculous comeback as Zimbabwe drew their first-ever Test match.
Capitalising on second chance?
The fact that Fawad Alam got his second chance in the Pakistan Test team on World Left-handers day is apt. The journey to his selection has been full of toil in the domestic circuit.
However, inflated domestic numbers from the subcontinent have often proven to be misleading in a lot of ways.
The wickets, the conditions and the quality of bowling all a lot more different.
This is probably the reason why Pakistan’s batsmen have struggled on hard and bouncy pitches in Australia and South Africa while in England, they have a surprisingly great record although they have not won a series there since 1996.
Fawad Alam will be tested by the swing and seam of England’s class bowling attack consisting of Chris Woakes, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Sam Curran in Southampton.
This is the first time that he will play a Test in England. It is up to him to ensure his 11-year exile is forgotten with a magnificent performance in Southampton.