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December 8, 2019

Pakistan recall forgotten Fawad Alam for SL Test series


December 8, 2019

KARACHI: It took ten long years for Fawad Alam to regain his place in Pakistan’s Test squad.

In those ten years, the left-hander piled on mountains and mountains of first-class runs – 7922 to be exact – at an average of 56.58.

But for years Fawad was ignored by a series of head coaches and chief selectors despite the fact that he has, more often than not, been the most prolific run-getter on the domestic circuit.

It was only after Pakistan’s disastrous showing in Australia, where they were hammered in both the Tests, that the country’s cricket think-tank finally decided that it was time to bring back Fawad.

More than that, it was the hue and cry in both the traditional and social media which forced Misbah-ul-Haq and Co to buckle under pressure and pick Fawad in the 16-man squad for the forthcoming two-Test series against Sri Lanka on home soil.

There was just one more change in the squad that got massacred Down Under: Usman Shinwari coming in for teenage pacer Mohammad Musa. Shinwari, who has played 17 ODIs and 16 T20Is, is yet to make his Test debut.

Apart from that Misbah, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector, kept faith in more or less the same players who were unable to impress in the 0-2 drubbing against Australia.

Fawad, 34, played the last of his three Tests in November 2009 against New Zealand in Dunedin. He has replaced Iftikhar Ahmed, who flopped in Australia scoring just 44 runs in four innings.

While the young Musa, who went wicketless on his Test debut in Adelaide was axed, 16-year-old Naseem Shah managed to retain his place in the squad.

Also managing to keep his place in the squad was left-arm spinner Kashif Bhatti, who didn’t play a single game in Australia.

Misbah stressed that he was in favour of continuity.

“Our target and our thinking is that we need consistency in the team and the continuity will give player confidence they need,” he told reporters in Lahore on Saturday. “We don’t need a lot of change and we haven’t done much either. Overall, only two changes in the squad, which was necessary.

“This series holds a lot of importance in many ways as the Sri Lanka series is marking the revival of Test cricket in the country. The results in this series will help us to regain our winning streak, so we have considered many aspects and taken important decisions. I am satisfied the team we have selected is based on a winning combination,” he said.

Saturday’s talking point was Fawad’s return.

Ignored again and again, Fawad continued to score heavily on the domestic circuit. In his last six games for Sindh in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, he’s made scores of 92, 1, 29*, 107, 0, 65, 211 and 116.

Misbah defended his decision to overlook Fawad for the tour of Australia.

“It’s not that he (Fawad) was written off for any reason or so, but there is a narrow line where decisions are made. We had picked Iftikhar Ahmed because of his strengths and it’s not like someone else is overlooked intentionally,” he said. “We sometimes don’t go by numbers, but the ability in certain conditions as well. We needed a player at No. 6 and we think Fawad can fill in.

“His performance isn’t about just one season, as he has been performing and maintaining his average for over many seasons. I don’t know what happened in the past but for now we are considering him and going to use his form.”

Pakistan’s two premier batsmen – skipper Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq – have been quiet unimpressive.

Azhar, who replaced Sarfraz Ahmed as Pakistan’s Test captan, has only managed 763 runs in 15 Tests at an average of 26.31. Asad has done better, with 1034 runs at an average of 36.92 in the same number of matches.

“It’s a worry, not just about them but for all the players who aren’t performing, even if it’s a bowler,” Misbah stressed. “There are always some players, who form the nucleus of the team, and I still believe in them. They [Azhar and Shafiq] are senior players. Unfortunately, they are not performing and I don’t know what are the reasons. But maybe it’s because of the lack of Test cricket for them, probably that’s a reason. Because, being a Test specialist, when you get to play after long gap it makes you feel like you are on debut. But their performance is very crucial if we want to lift ourselves in the Test championship.”

Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari.