Kolkata: Fawad Alam, the Pakistan southpaw who had been the key in lending an element of steel in their batting order in Tests, is one of his kind. The sport dosn’t have too many examples of a player who has been recalled after being in the cold for nearly 11 years (yes, you have heard it right) and almost overnight, has gone on to become one of their go-to persons in crisis.
Take the ongoing second Test against the West Indies at Kingstown, Jamaica for example. After losing a humdinger of a first Test by one wicket, Pakistan were again in dire straits in this one as they were three down with only two runs on the board when the 35-year-old Fawad walked out to join skipper Babar Azam. At the end of the day, the man from Karachi had blunted the Caribbean pace attack to stitch together a match-saving, unbeaten 158-run partnership with his captain.
When he completed his fifth Test century with a pull towards mid-wicket on Sunday, he created a record by being the fastest among Asian batsmen to reach five Test centuries in his 22nd innings - though none come close to taking as long in real time as Fawad, whose first hundred came on debut in 2009.
First picked to play in 2009, Fawad seemed destined for greatness when he marked his Test debut with a second innings 168 off 259 balls against Sri Lanka at P Sara Oval in Colombo.
However, much to his chagrin, the then 24-year found himself out of the side just two Tests later, dropped midway through Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand. In his four innings since the century, he had averaged 16.5, passing 20 just once but he could be forgiven if he had expected more patience so early in his career and having left such a strong impression in his first match.
He would wait 10 years and 259 days for his next Test, missing 88 matches for Pakistan in that time - only six players in hisory have missed more Test matches between appearances. In his time away from Test cricket, he did everything he could to force his way back into the team, helping himself to 26 first class hundreds and nearly 8000 runs at an average of 56.48.
After the wait for a lifetime during which he had represented the country off and on, Fawad was finally given a chance against England in the second Test match on August 13, 2020. However, he started off his new journey with a duck.
His critics sharpened the attack with a I-told-you-so but this time, he was not willing to let go off the opportunity. Fawad soon made his mark by scoring a century against New Zealand in the very next series and followed it up with another hundred against South Africa at Karachi at the beginning of this year when they were visiting Pakistan for the first time since 2007.
“It was not written in my fate, whenever God has written it to happen for me, it will come to me. I have always been following this belief. I don’t know what I would have lost or gained, had I played for the past 10 years. I will get whatever is written for me, and no one can take that away from me,” he said after his third century against the Proteas.
Surely, Fawad - whose celebration inspired by Ottoman leader Ertugrul after reaching the century against the Proteas went viral, can now provide inspiration to scores of cricketers often waiting in the wilderness.
Fawad Alam’s landmarks
* Fawad has now scored five Test centuries in fewer innings than Indian batting greats Sourav Ganguly (25), Sunil Gavaskar (25) Cheteshwar Pujara (24) and Vijay Hazare (26).
* He also became the sixth Pakistan batsman to score a century at Sabina Park, joining Imtiaz Ahmed (122; 1958), Wazir Mohammad (106; 1958), Asif Iqbal (135; 1977), Younis Khan (106; 2005) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (117 not out; 2005).