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Exclusive: Why Fawad’s story gives us hope in 2021

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Fawad’s refusal to throw in the towel despite a decade of rejection will inspire all cricketers

As we ring in the New Year, the world’s in desperate need of stories that could lift her spirit amid a raging pandemic. From the world of sports, we had Neil Wagner bowling his heart out, despite two broken toes, to help New Zealand win a riveting battle in the first Test against Pakistan.

But the Fawad Alam story is even more compelling.

For the record, Fawad scored a Test hundred which eventually failed to save Pakistan from a relentless wave of Kiwi attacks.

But what could never be found in any record books is the decade of pain Fawad endured before painstakingly keeping Pakistan alive at the picturesque Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

The Fawad Alam story could give us a shot in the arm – a story of pain, endless rejections and utter humiliation. But one that shows us the beauty of the never-say-die spirit.

Who could have thought that this 35-year-old left-hander with an ungainly stance would be engaged in an epic duel with the Kiwis in a Boxing Day Test, in an attempt to rescue Pakistan, a team that had shut its doors on him for 11 long years? A team that had dropped him after one failure in New Zealand during the 2009 Test series despite his hundred on debut, months before his unceremonious exit.

Fawad, though, kept on scoring runs in domestic cricket at a staggering rate. Such was his consistency that his first class average (56.54) became the best in the history of Pakistan cricket and some of the names above him on the list of the world’s all-time best first class averages include Don Bradman, Vijay Merchant, George Headley, Vijay Hazare, Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Smith, Geoff Boycott and Clyde Walcott.

But it didn’t seem to matter to the people in the upper echelons of Pakistan cricket as Fawad never came close to earning a Test recall.

Then finally after more than 10 years, Fawad was back in the thick of things as Pakistan travelled to England in July for a Test series. But, at 35, the pressure to prove himself at the highest level was too big as the bearded batsman produced 42 runs in four innings.

And it seemed Fawad’s second innings in Test cricket after his brief but promising first innings had ended before it could even take off.

An injury to captain Babar Azam, though, opened a window of opportunity for Fawad who gritted his teeth to script a memorable fourth innings hundred (102 off 269 balls) on a deteriorating pitch, inspiring Pakistan to produce an epic fight for a draw in New Zealand – a country where he was dropped 11 years ago after one failure.

“It’s a big personal achievement for Fawad. It’s a hugely satisfying innings for him, especially after what he has gone through all these years, many players in his place would have left cricket. But you know, he has got a great passion for the game of cricket,” Rashid Latif, the former Pakistan captain, told Khaleej Times over phone from Karachi.

Fawad’s passion for the game came from his father Tariq Alam and maternal uncle Waheed Mirza, both former first class cricketers with the latter even sharing a world record first wicket partnership (561 runs) with Mansoor Akhtar during a domestic match in 1977.

“I think it’s the cricket environment in the family that helped him stay strong mentally,” Latif said.

Now Fawad’s refusal to throw in the towel despite a decade of rejection will inspire all cricketers.

“Look, a lot of players take the easy route of criticising the board or the players if they have not been picked. But Fawad just kept on performing in domestic cricket and when he finally got this chance to resume his Test career, he performed. I think what he has done will be a big source of motivation for all players in international cricket,” Latif said.

“I think, not just cricketers, as human beings, we all can learn from his positive mindset and perseverance. He has proven that if we remain positive despite the challenges that life throws at us, we can achieve a lot of things.

“And in future, if some players go through such a phase, they should look up to Fawad Alam for inspiration!”