A few years too late, but a thoroughly earned Pakistan Test recall for Fawad Alam

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A decade of perseverance without due reward finally paid off for Fawad Alam on Saturday after the batsman was named in the 16-man Pakistan squad for the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka.

It is somewhat fitting that Alam’s comeback in whites for the first time in over a decade also coincides with the return of Test cricket on Pakistan soil after a similarly excruciating wait.

With the terrorist attacks on the touring Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 bringing international cricket to a halt in the nation, Pakistan have had to play their ‘home’ matches in the UAE over the past 10 years. During that period, Alam has done the long toil on the domestic pitches of Pakistan in a first-class career which very few players in history can boast of.

Only 21 batsmen in the history of the game, including Sir Don Bradman and the great Sachin Tendulkar, have averaged more than Alam’s current numbers of 56.84 (minimum of 50 innings).

Of them, none belong to Pakistan. Only Pakistan’s legendary batsman Hanif Mohammad comes close with an average of 52.32. Mohammad is also the only Pakistan man to breach the 12,000-run barrier in first-class cricket in quicker time than Alam, who attained the feat just a few days ago.

Despite putting up those stellar numbers, the 34-year-old failed to find a place in the Test squad for the Australia tour picked by head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq. Being ignored for selection was a script all too familiar for Alam, but that it came under a newly installed regime helmed by Misbah would have definitely been a bitter pill to swallow for him.

He has been sidestepped for a Test recall by several selectors before Misbah, even though his performances in the domestic circuit have actually been getting better with each passing year. In fact, former chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had even declared last year that he “has seen better batsmen than Fawad” in response to a query about his continued omission.

To his credit, the left-hander has continued to soldier on despite becoming a near pariah in Pakistan cricket and used the frustration to churn out runs at an even greater intensity. In this season’s ongoing Quaid-e-Azam first-class competition, Alam has scored 781 runs already at a staggering average of 71. In that run, the Karachi-born man has registered a double ton, three centuries and six fifties to finally force Misbah’s hand.

It was Misbah who was the skipper of the Pakistan side for a large chunk of the last decade and the 45-year-old never once deemed it fit to call up Alam, even as he wasted away his prime years toiling in domestic cricket.

However, his team’s abject and tame surrender recently in Australia has forced him to finally turn to Alam who comes into the squad in place of Iftikhar Ahmed. The value of significant first-class experience cannot be ignored anymore by Misbah, especially given how his relatively inexperienced squad was turned over with effortless ease Down Under.

With the matches against Sri Lanka taking place on Pakistan soil, it makes even more sense to recall Alam who has made it a habit of plundering runs on pitches across the country. It might be a few years too late in its coming but it is a comeback Alam has thoroughly earned and deserved.

Alam has finally managed to force Misbah's hand.

Alam has finally managed to force Misbah’s hand.

It would have been easy for anyone in his shoes to go on a public tirade against the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for continuously ignoring him. Instead, he has quietly gone about his business away from the limelight and continued to express his hopes of playing for the country again.

Some might say his axing from the Pakistan squad after just three Tests in 2009 was unjust in itself, given that he had averaged more than 40 after slamming a ton on debut. That century was registered against Sri Lanka and once again, it is befitting that they are the opponents for his long-awaited comeback.

He has let his bat do all the talking for him in his forlorn years in the background, and he will no doubt want it to make all the noises when the Test series against the islanders gets under way on Wednesday in Rawalpindi.

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