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Fawad Alam: It is always an honour to represent Pakistan in any format

Fawad Alam was in fine touch in Asia Cup 2014 © AFP
Fawad Alam was in fine touch in Asia Cup 2014 © AFP

By Amir Husain

Hailing from Karachi, Fawad Alam has had a stop-start international career which currently boasts three Test matches, 29 One Day Internationals (ODIs) and 24 Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). Having dominated domestic cricket for many years with a First-Class average of 55.87 and a List A average of 48.55, Fawad has struggled to nail down a permanent spot in the Pakistan side in any format.

However, following his outstanding performance at the recently concluded Asia Cup 2014, which included a match-winning 74 off 70 balls against Bangladesh and an unbeaten century in the final, things look set to change for the 28-year old middle-order batsman.

A centurion on Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2009, where he scored a magnificent 161 from an unfamiliar batting position at the top of the order, as well as a member of the victorious ICC World T20 2009 squad, Fawad may feel hard done by given the limited opportunities he has had at the top level, despite his stellar domestic record. However, the unorthodox left-hander continues to remain upbeat, particularly after his recent performances, and in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, he spoke in detail about his feelings on making a comeback to international cricket for Pakistan and his future aspirations.

PakPassion.net (PP): Let’s start with your unique batting stance. How did that come about? Is it your own or borrowed from someone else? How did Pakistan batting consultant, Zaheer Abbas, react to it?

Fawad Alam (FA): This wasn’t anything deliberate on my part. I started to use this stance during the course of my domestic career and it works for me. I suppose it’s whatever you are comfortable with and this is the case with my batting stance.

During the Asia Cup and in the days preceding it during camps, we didn’t have much time to spend with Zaheer [Abbass] for him to make any changes to my stance. His view was simply that since we have matches coming up in the Asia Cup, I should continue batting in that way and later on, we can talk about it and analyse it in detail.

PP: You remained out of the Pakistan international squad for many years — take us through your emotions when you first learnt that you had been chosen for the Asia Cup squad?

FA: Naturally, I was elated at the fact that I had been re-considered for selection after a very long period of time. My first reaction was to thank the Almighty for His help.I suppose it’s difficult to put my feelings into words to describe how I felt then. All I remember is that I was glad that I had been chosen to be part of the Asia Cup squad and given another chance to prove my worth and I was really looking forward to that challenge. Even my friends and family were very happy as after a long wait, I had been given another opportunity to serve my country. They were all wishing me the best of luck and hoping that I would perform well and establish my position in the Pakistan team.

PP: Your last international assignment for Pakistan was almost four years ago. Did you ever lose faith in your ability to make a comeback?

FA: I suppose due to my belief in the Almighty, I never gave up or lost hope regarding a comeback. I always knew that a day would come when my efforts would be rewarded especially, as I was working hard and scoring runs in domestic cricket and I am glad that this did happen.

PP: How were you feeling as you walked out to bat against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup? What was going through your mind?

FA: There was definitely a lot of pressure on me, as only I know what I had gone through for almost four years. Waiting for this moment to arrive including the questions I had faced and the doubts I had to confront. All I knew was that I had to play with the utmost concentration and to leave an everlasting impression that would make me a regular in the team. I also wanted to forget the past and wanted to focus on what was coming up next, but also wanted to make sure that I had learnt from my previous mistakes and would not repeat them again.

Apart from this, I also wanted to make sure that I played positively and in accordance with what was required of me in terms of the match situation and thankfully, I was able to fulfil those requirements. I really wanted this to be a memorable comeback and thanks to the Almighty, that is exactly what happened!

At this point, I must thank my teammates, as they were really helpful and offered encouragement to me as I waited to go into bat that day. And it wasn’t just that day, but also in the lead up to the game, I received a lot of good tips which helped me build up my confidence. I clearly recall that as I waited in the dressing room, padded up and ready to go in, Moin Khan our Head Coach kept on speaking to me with positive thoughts which helped boost my confidence, and I was able to play fearlessly that day.

PP: Staying with that game against Bangladesh, take us through the whole experience of batting alongside Shahid Afridi as well as your own contribution.

FA: Well as you know I was already batting when Afridi walked in. We needed close to 12 runs an over and things were looking very tough. But, as we all know, when Shahid [Afridi] is batting, well these kinds of targets don’t matter to him and are just a number. No target is impossible for him! Then, when he hit the first few sixes, we became very confident of chasing the total down. Afridi’s role was very important that day and he pretty much took us to the brink of victory, before he was out.

As for my role, it was made clear to me that I was to bat to the end of the innings and had to continue to rotate the strike. I did that to the end and also hit out towards the end of the innings.

PP: In terms of your style of batting, you are considered more of an accumulator of runs. Does that put extra pressure on you especially in this day and age when high strike rates are expected of all batsmen?

FA: I feel no pressure at all and people are free to think what they want. All I know is that I plan and play my innings according to the situation at hand and based upon the requirements of the team and I will continue to do so in the future. Of course, I will continue to improve myself as I progress in my career. One can never stop learning and I intend to strive to do better for myself and the team.

PP: It may be too early to say this but do you feel that you can act as the ideal partner for Misbah-ul-Haq as he goes about his usual business of rebuilding innings or even be his replacement in the role he specialises in?

FA: Misbah has been serving Pakistan for a long time and is a consistent performer as well. I cannot dream of replacing him, but the fact is that everyone has their own style of batting and I will do my best to use my skills to help him and Pakistan as needed. I consider Misbah as an all time great and cannot even imagine that I can replace him or play his role. All I can say is that I will be there, whenever my country needs me to perform.

PP: Pakistani batting has been a subject of a lot of criticism of late. As someone who has been playing in domestic cricket for a while, how do you feel about the standard of batting in Pakistan’s domestic cricket?

FA: I don’t agree with your statement — I really have no doubt in my mind that there is immense talent in Pakistan when it comes to batting. Yes, form can go up or down, but I am convinced that Pakistan has always had talent in batting and we are continuing to produce good players.

PP: Given your comeback into the international scene and your success in the ODI format, do you feel you are also ready to represent Pakistan in T20I games as well in future?

FA: It is always an honour to represent Pakistan in any format. As a player, all you can do is to put in your very best in any format that one is asked to play in. I have no preference for any format. As far as I am concerned, there will be no let up in my efforts when it comes to representing Pakistan. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in Tests, ODIs or T20Is. I will put in my best effort!

PP: How do you rate the experience of playing in some of the well known international leagues? Would you be interested in playing in one of the T20 Leagues or even as an overseas player at county level?

FA: I will be very interested in playing in some of these international leagues as this is great for gaining experience for any player. The exposure one gets by playing in front of crowds from different countries as well as the ideal experience of playing on different pitches around the world is amazing. Not only is this useful for my personal development, but it will also help me in representing Pakistan when the team tours these countries. No batsman will ever miss such a chance and I am sure given the chance, I will definitely take part in these competitions.

PP: Now that you have restarted your international career, how do you see yourself progressing in the future? What goals have you set for yourself?

FA: My view has always been that we never stop learning — each game brings with it a unique challenge and something new for one to learn. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I will continue to work in the same way I have worked all my life and each and every innings I play for Pakistan until I retire will have my full commitment.

PP: Finally, how do you rate Pakistan’s chances of lifting the ICC World T20 2014?

FA: To be honest, I feel that they have a great chance of becoming World T20 Champions. In this format they have one of the best all round teams in the tournament, with our bowlers being second to none. So God Willing, I am convinced that they have a very good chance of winning the title.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)

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