A short-pitched ball from Neil Wagner, rising around chest height, pulled away and hits the boundary cushions despite a despairing dive from Mitchell Santner. And that was it, Fawad Alam’s redeemed himself on the international stage. Eleven years, five months and 16 days is the time it took him to reach his second Test ton. With this, he has become the first Pakistani cricketer to score a Test hundred in the fourth innings.

No other player in recent history, anywhere in the world has so blatantly been ignored despite being a giant in the domestic cricket. The notion that he is not an international material or good enough for domestic cricket only does not hold water for he hasn’t been provided with any opportunity in Tests for a decade.

There haven’t been many batsmen in Pakistan’s cricket that have been discussed like Fawad Alam. We all know how management frequently changes in the Pakistan Cricket Board. In the last decade, chief selectors changed, head coaches changed, some personnel went and came back again but Fawad Alam remained out of the team.

He was only 23 years old when he was dropped after a few failures in New Zealand back in 2009. He was selected for Pakistan home series against England in UAE in 2015 but didn’t play a single game and was dropped from the next series.

After the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, the obvious contender to replace one of them was Fawad Alam. But Inzmam ul Haq overlooked him for the series against Srilanka in October 2017 and gave chance to Haris Sohail. At that stage, Haris hadn’t featured in a single first-class game in over 3 years. In the same period, Fawad had scored 2199 runs at an average of 59.43. Imam ul Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali and Usman Salahuddin all made debuts after MIS-YOU era who had inferior domestic record than them.

Fawad Alam made a comeback in the Pakistan’s squad in December 2019, in the series against Sri Lanka but spent the whole tour on the bench. He eventually got his chance against England in Haris Sohail’s absence, against one of the best bowling attacks in the world and could just score 30 runs in the series.

This century speaks volume of Fawad’s mental toughness as it comes against New Zealand’s best attack ever. To shove off the disappointment and continuous overlooking from the board for a period of time is not an easy thing to do. He has only let his bat do the talking in the past and today was no different. After the game, in a video message released by PCB Fawad was very much content with his performance.

Unlike in the first innings, where Fawad got out while trying to hoick a bouncer from Wagner that he could have left alone, this was an innings of poise, calm, control and calculation. Taking attacking shots out of batting vocab in the beginning, defence shone more brightly than attack, and quite certainly, self-belief rose above insecurity. It was a typical Fawad Alam innings as he has done countless times in the domestic circuit: soaking up the pressure from the seam bowlers, tiring them down and then teeing off. The way he scored off Mitchel Santner felt like he was batting at the National Stadium Karachi.

Year and year out Fawad Alam has been grinding it out in the domestic. Season after season in wilderness, batting tirelessly on seaming tracks and dust bowls in the domestic circuit, mastering his craft. Doing a bit of acting and cricket punditry going with it in the recent years. None of it was easy but all those long hard years made him what he is today.

“I feel disappointed but not demotivated. My work is to play and perform irrespective of for whom I am playing. I don’t live in the past and aim to perform so that I keep knocking at the doors of the selectors.”

He may have an awkward stance, his shots might not have the elegance that of Babar Azam and Virat Kohli but he is mighty effective and the piles of runs he has scored in the domestic are a testament of that and today again he showed his worth with his team up against it.

Fawad Alam has not only cemented his place in Pakistan’s Test setup but has also given a great blueprint to the youngsters who are playing in the domestic circuit. There is nothing you can’t achieve with determination and consistency. He is a role model, Pakistan never had and probably never will.

The author is a member of staff and heads the sports and business desks at The Correspondent. He mainly lives in the shadows as a ghost writer so you may have read his work and not even known it. He can be reached at asadqasim@thecorrespondent.pk


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