Fawad Alam: “I have made comebacks in the past, I will do it again”

At 30 years of age and still with only three Test matches to his name, Fawad Alam continues to divide opinion. His domestic record remains as stellar as ever, averaging 56, 48 and 32 in First Class, List A and Twenty20 (T20) cricket respectively, yet a return to the Pakistan side in any format remains elusive. He was part of the Karachi Kings squad in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) but was surprisingly not selected for a single game.

Now part of the Sindh team in the ongoing Pakistan Cup, Fawad spoke exclusively with PakPassion.net on a range of subjects including his recent experience with the Pakistan A side, the national team’s performance at the ICC World T20 2016, his disappointment in the PSL and his aspirations of a return to the Pakistan team.

PakPassion.net (PP): What’s keeping you busy at the moment?

Fawad Alam (FA): The Pakistan Cup is the next big thing on the calendar for Pakistan cricket but I recently played in the Quaid-e-Azam Grade II trophy where my team Karachi Blues qualified for the main Grade I Trophy and I am also pleased for myself as I scored 202 in the final game against Multan. Since then I have been concentrating on training and keeping my skills up to date with practice and am now busy with the Pakistan Cup.

PP: As a contracted player in your off-season period, are you expected to follow a plan to keep yourself fit in readiness for international duties?

FA: Yes, very much so. There is a plan provided to each player by the trainers and it is the responsibility of the players to follow that plan. We are told that these trainers are always available for consultation and advice throughout the off-season period. Personally speaking, I train at home regardless of any specific instructions and of course you need to understand that the best person to monitor one’s progress is the player himself. The player is the only one who benefits from this training regime. I am not just referring to cricket skills and fitness but also to things such as diet as well. The trainers, whether at the NCA or the national team, can only guide you. They cannot force you to train or follow their suggestions. It is this training during this time which is what makes the difference when we step on the field for Pakistan.

PP: What lessons have been learnt by the players after the Yasir Shah drugs ban episode?

FA: That matter is now closed but let me say that we are given very detailed instructions about what medicines to take and on top of that, there is tremendous support available to us pretty much 24/7 to discuss such matters which is crucial and very reassuring for us. We have the complete backing of the Board in this matter and our team doctor Sohail can be contacted at any time as well. There are sessions held to educate players and the Board has made sure that no player can claim ignorance to this very important aspect of our game.

PP: You had a decent series with the bat against England Lions, that’s surely a positive sign?

FA: That is definitely the case as I felt very satisfied after playing against such good quality opposition. Some of the players we played against are quite impressive and also part of the national squad as well. So performing well against them did fill all of us with a lot of confidence in our abilities. To do well in such games is a great feeling for me personally and I am glad that we are getting to play in more of these types of series. The tour of Sri Lanka and the series against England Lions are prime examples of what can be an excellent opportunity for youngsters to make a name for themselves and also for players who may be out of form to get themselves back into the reckoning for selection for the national team.

PP: How was the experience of captaining the Pakistan A side against the England Lions?

FA: This wasn’t my first experience as a captain as I had captained during the Sri Lanka A tour as well. Against England Lions, I took over the captaincy from Junaid Khan for two games as he was injured. I must say it was a very enjoyable experience as we gave a good account of ourselves to win the unofficial ODI series. It was a great feeling to be relied upon to captain the side, especially at a point where we were two down in the series and then I led the team to two victories. The support I had from the coaches and the team was brilliant and I really learnt a lot from this challenge.

PP: Have we seen the last of Fawad Alam in a Pakistan shirt?

FA: It’s really down to self-belief at the end of the day, isn’t it? I am not a negative thinker and I have trust in the Almighty and truly believe in my own capabilities. I will continue to work hard and put in whatever effort I can to make myself selectable. I am convinced that I will be back in Pakistan colours soon and just as I have made comebacks in the past, I will do it again! There is always an ebb and flow in one’s fortunes and these situations happen to all cricketers at some point in their career. My job is to put in the effort and the rest I leave with the Almighty.

PP: Speaking about disappointments, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) experience must have felt strange?

FA: Absolutely! There is no doubt that I am disappointed about having to sit out games when I have so many runs behind me in domestic cricket and have been a proven performer in the T20 format for a number of years. To not play in one of the biggest tournaments to happen in Pakistan cricket was a hard pill to swallow but as always, I am an eternal optimist and took this setback in my stride. I have to be positive because if I start wondering why I didn’t get a chance to play in the PSL then that would be detrimental to my career as a whole.

Having said that, I trained with the squad even though I was not in the playing eleven. There was enough interaction with some of the world’s top T20 players as well as the best coaches in the business for me to still feel somewhat satisfied at the end of this tournament. It is definitely good for one’s morale and confidence when you speak and take on some of the expert advice I received during the PSL.

PP: What was lacking in Pakistan’s World T20 campaign?

FA: I firmly believe that the team chosen was a very good one; these are some of the best players in the world. All one can say is that despite having such players in the squad, somehow we just could not perform as we would have liked to. The T20 format is a difficult one for all teams. Look at how Sri Lanka fared or even for that matter India who were being considered as hot favourites in their own backyard. Many people didn’t think much of England’s chances, yet they astounded all by reaching the finals. So I don’t think we are as far behind the other teams as some experts would like to think. We did seem to be on a roll when we beat Bangladesh but then things didn’t click after that game and we didn’t do as well as we expected, losing games from advantageous positions.

PP: Why is Pakistan struggling to produce quality batsmen?

FA: I don’t really feel it is a problem of the cricket system in Pakistan. It is down to individuals. If they can inject some consistency and discipline in their batting, then there is no reason why we cannot produce quality batsmen. Take the example of Younis Khan and ask how does he perform so well if there is a problem in our system? I do believe that Pakistan batsmen, young and upcoming, should follow his example to establish consistency in their batting. This is the secret to the quality that we lack. We need batsmen who can score runs in every game and not just one or two games and provide the stability that players like Misbah-ul-Haq used to provide in any format of the game.

PP: Is there any advantage or disadvantage of a foreign Head Coach for the Pakistan team?

FA: This is completely up to the Pakistan Cricket Board as to who they choose based upon the abilities of the applicants and whether their presence is beneficial for the team. However, I have often heard a point being made about communication or comprehension issues for our players when dealing with foreign coaches. We had Mickey Arthur as our coach in the PSL and we were able to understand him fine, so that is obviously not an issue as such. Also remember that whilst the players may not be able to express themselves so well in English, they are able to understand instructions. If there is a problem, then there are enough coaching staff to help out so all in all, communication is not the issue here. The real challenge is to find a coach who is best for the Pakistan team.

PakPassion.net : The Pakistan Cup surely presents you with another opportunity to impress?

FA: I am very excited about being picked for the Sindh team and hoping that I will get to play a few games in front of home crowds. PSL was also a domestic tournament yet I couldn’t get a game so am hopeful that there won’t be a repeat of that situation again. The Sindh team is very strong and is well balanced with good all-round strength. I am hoping that we can click as a combination from the word go and if we do that, then I see no reason why we can’t go all the way to lift the trophy. This is a team of experienced individuals, some of whom are current Pakistan players and I am really looking forward to being part of this wonderful squad. The Faisalabad crowds are very enthusiastic about cricket and hopefully they will see some high quality games involving some of our best players. As a venue, you cannot beat Faisalabad, especially for such an important tournament.

PakPassion.net : Finally, the James Taylor retirement news must have been a shock to you, especially since you got to know him in the recent Pakistan England series?

FA: It was a complete shock to all of us. My prayers go out to him for his recovery. We got to know each other during the series as we were all staying in the same hotel and we would meet at breakfast etc. He is a strong and very fit lad and I still find it incredible to hear that he is not well. All we can do is offer him our heartfelt prayers and hope that the Almighty grants him a complete recovery.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion, where the article first appeared)