Fawad Alam's continued Test exclusion remains one of the biggest mysteries of Pakistan cricket

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A story of wasted potential. Image credit - FawadAlam/Twitter.

Even as Pakistan search for answers ahead of the final Test against Australia in Adelaide, back in Karachi a certain Fawad Alam was sending another reminder of what has now become a decade of wasted potential.

Stamping his class once again over the domestic circuit, the left-hander brought up the fourth first-class double ton of his career in a Quaid-e-Azam Trophy clash between Sindh and Southern Punjab.

In the process of doing so, Alam also became the second quickest Pakistan batsman to bring up 12,000 first-class runs. Only the legendary Hanif Mohammad has attained that feat in fewer innings.

The marathon knock of 211 also took the 34-year-old’s first-class average to 56.57 – a staggering consistency by a player who has played 163 matches in the format. It is a big pity then that only three of those 163 appearances have come in the whites of Pakistan in Test cricket.

All three of his Test appearances came all the way back in 2009 with the southpaw even going on to register a ton on his debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo. However, 10 years on, Alam is still waiting for his fourth Test cap with the reasons behind his continued exclusion being one of the biggest mysteries in Pakistan cricket.

During that period, several Pakistan selectors and skippers have come and gone, but none have deemed it fit to hand Alam a recall despite his impressive first-class numbers. And it is not the case that Pakistan have been blessed with an abundance of batting talent at their disposal either.

Even discarding Alam’s first-class numbers, his Test average of 41.66 has been surpassed by a handful of Pakistan batsmen in the last decade. Only three batsmen, to be precise have a better Test average during the period which includes Pakistan greats such as Younis Khan and current head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq.

The Karachi-born man’s domestic profligacy has only increased in the last few years, yet he remains a near pariah when it comes to Pakistan’s international set-up. While he did get a limited-overs recall in 2015, that turned out to be a brief affair as well with Alam quickly shown the door despite generating decent numbers.

The only logical reasoning behind shunning him, especially from Test cricket, can be his advancing age. Still that argument does not really wash when one takes into account the approaches taken by other countries. Australia handed Chris Rogers a Test debut at the ripe age of 35 and the opener proved to be instrumental in back-to-back Ashes series.

Even the great Michael Hussey had to wait his chance with his Test debut coming at 30. In fact, no one knows better about an international career flourishing late into their 30s than Misbah – the man currently occupying the hot seat in Pakistan cricket.

However, even the now Pakistan coach and selector ignored Alam when naming his first Test squad for the ongoing series against Australia. Remarkably, Misbah had no problems in handing a Test recall to 32-year-old Imran Khan or even Iftikhar Ahmed for that matter. Also, 33-year-old off-spinner Kashif Bhatti was rewarded for his perseverance at the domestic level with a maiden Test call-up.

Misbah

Fawad, though, had no such luck despite rumours before the tour pointing towards an impending Test recall. Even at his age, with the form that he has shown so far, it is not inconceivable to get another two to three good years out of him at the Test level. It is not like Alam is a liability on the field too and the veteran would instantly count among the better fielders in the squad if he was given another chance.

While a lot of his years will go down as wasted potential, it is still not too late for Pakistan to turn towards Alam again as they seek a spike in their floundering Test fortunes.

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