Pakistan’s squad for the tour to England and Ireland next month had one notable omission, which has been dominating the news this week: Fawad Alam. ‘Faadi’ has gathered a cult following over the years, as someone who has been neglected over the previous decade, with many feeling that he has been hard done by on many occasions.
With Fawad Alam not exactly a power hitter, his place in the limited-overs side has been put in jeopardy for that. But considering that he remains the most successful run-getter domestically for Pakistan, it has been long believed that it was only a matter of time before he gets a run in the Test side.
With the Test side doing so formidably well under Misbah-ul-Haq, and the middle-order loaded with success stories, Fawad Alam couldn’t get a look in. But once MisYou retired last year, he was considered a shoo-in for the Test side.
While he was surprisingly overlooked for the only series since MisYou’s retirement in West Indies, against Sri Lanka in October, considering that Pakistan were whitewashed for their first ever series defeat in the UAE, an experienced head was definitely the need of the hour.
And yet, Fawad Alam doesn’t get a look in again, with youngsters Saad Ali and Usman Salahuddin preferred in the middle order. The more controversial inclusion of course has been that of Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq’s nephew Imam-ul-Haq.
The case for Fawad Alam is pretty straightforward, as discussed above. The case against him is slightly more complicated. It starts with the fact that Fawad is just off one of his worst seasons domestically – but that didn’t stop him from being the sixth highest run-scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy at an average of over 40.
The Test series in England should not be mistaken as a chance to ‘gain experience’ for youngsters
Even so, the fact remains that Saad Ali and Usman Salahuddin were above him on the charts.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Azhar Ali, FakharZaman, Sami Aslam, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, M Abbas
“The World Cup next year is in England. So we have decided to call up several young players to give them exposure to those conditions,” Inzamam told the media following the squad announcement. “This is a great opportunity for us, particularly our batsmen, to gain experience in this conditions.”
That statement right there is the problem with the squad announcement, and not necessarily owing to Fawad Alam’s omission.
The Test series in England, one of the toughest challenges in the sport right now, should not be mistaken as a chance to ‘gain experience’ for youngsters. You play your best possible team out there and try and nick the result.
So the argument should have been that Saad Ali and Usman Salahuddin have done more this season, while Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq are contending for the opening slots.
Furthermore, with Yasir Shah out injured Shadab Khan would be leading the spin attack in Tests, where he is significantly less experienced and hence less successful. Other than Mohammed Amir and Rahat Ali there isn’t much Test experience among the fast bowlers either, and everyone would have to play out of their skin to compete with England.
The batting would depend on Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq who would not have the luxury of Misbah and Younis Khan around them to fall back on, and instead would be tasked with guiding the many youngsters in the squad.
Among these would be Babar Azam, who has struggled to replicate his prolific run-scoring in the limited overs format in Tests.
Pakistan clearly have their work cut out in England. But on the flipside, with so many youngsters thrown right at the deep end, if things to come together, Pakistan could be looking at the players that could be forming the Test team’s spine in the years to come.