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Questionable selection criteria

Fawad Alam has a much better record than many players who have been given chances regularly but the experienced batsman surprisingly fails to get the selectors’ nod

Questionable selection criteria

In most of the countries, selection of players for the national cricket team is based on the players’ performance in domestic matches. But the selection of Pakistan national cricket team has always been controversial because it is not based on domestic performances.

For Ireland and England tour, once again Fawad Alam has become a victim of poor selection which was not expected at least from skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The batting department looks inexperienced to face England’s swing bowlers. After the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, Pakistan have only Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq capable of handling the bowler-friendly English conditions.

The squad has as many as five uncapped players: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali and Faheem Ashraf. Instead of selecting four openers for three Test matches, middle order should have been strengthened with experienced batsmen.

In the current available players, Fawad is the best choice. Despite having enormous talent and excellent domestic record, he has failed to cement his place in the national team.

Fawad made his Test debut as an opener against Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2009 and scored a century in his first Test. He played his last Test the same year in November against New Zealand at Dunedin. His average in three Tests was 41.66. Since then he has not been considered for Test matches.

He has played 38 One-day Internationals for Pakistan, scoring 966 runs, averaging 40.25. He has hit one hundred and six fifties. He last played for Pakistan in 2015 in Dhaka against Bangladesh.

After his excellent domestic performance from September 2014 to August 2015 in which he made two centuries, 201 and 164, and five fifties in 14 innings, he was named in the 15-man squad for the home series against England in the UAE in October 2015, but he returned without playing a match.

Fawad has completed 10,000 runs in first-class cricket. He reached the milestone during his 211th innings and became the second fastest after legendary Hanif Mohammad, who completed 10,000 first-class runs in 189 innings. Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah achieved the landmark in their 219th and 221st innings, respectively.

He made his first-class debut in 2003 at the age of 17. He has played 145 matches, scored 10,742 runs and managed an excellent average of 55.37 with 27 centuries and 57 fifties. Batting average wise, he is the only Pakistani in all-time 20 great batsmen of first-class cricket.

Fawad is capable of playing at different positions. He is also a good fielder and handy slow left-arm orthodox bowler. His average in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in the past four years has been 40.71, 55.54, 56 and 71.90.

Ignoring Fawad proves that performance in domestic circuit is not the criteria for selection in the national team. Fawad has a much better record than many players who have got chances regularly.

Former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said that he was disappointed over Fawad’s omission. “If it was up to me, Fawad would still be among our centrally contracted players, but now it would be difficult for him to make a comeback to the national side due to his age,” he said.

But if age is the reason for not picking 32-year-old Fawad, how did Misbah and Younis Khan play at the age of 42 and 38, respectively? Shoaib Malik (36), Azhar Ali (33), Asad (32) Yasir Shah (32), and Wahab Riaz (33) have also been playing for Pakistan.

Inzamam and Sarfraz say the national team’s doors aren’t closed on Fawad. It is a funny statement. If a player is not getting chance in his best form, at the age of 32, when will he?

During the camp for Ireland and England Test series at National Cricket Academy (NCA), Fawad scored an impressive 19 in a Yo-Yo Endurance Test, proving that even at the age of 32 he is fitter than youngsters like Babar Azam, Hasan Ali and Fakhar Zaman who all managed 18 points on the fitness scale. Sarfraz scored 17.4.

In India, players are selected only if they score a minimum of 19.5. In Australia, players must score more than 20 points if they are to be selected.

But perhaps all these things are not enough. Despite being ignored time and again, Fawad has never blamed anyone and has remained determined to continue doing well in domestic cricket.

Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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