Fawad Alam's 168 run innings on Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2009 should have marked him for future greatness but surprisingly the left-hander had to endure an 11-year wait after playing his first 3 Tests. However, all that seems to be in the past as Alam has now re-established himself in the Pakistan middle-order with four hundreds to his name since his return and raised his batting average in the red-ball format to 47.10.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Fawad spoke about how well he has adjusted to international cricket after his long absence, how he never let negative thoughts divert him from his aims of making an international comeback, how he is enjoying his status as a senior player, his unorthodox batting stance and why he feels that Abid Ali and Imran Butt have the ability to deliver in the future for Pakistan.
By Saj Sadiq (11th September, 2021)
PakPassion.net: You're averaging nearly 50 since your comeback in Test cricket. How pleased are you with your performances since your return?
Fawad Alam: It’s very pleasing. When you make a comeback to international sport after such a long gap there are always nerves, there is always pressure and there are concerns and you have to perform because the eyes of the world are on you. Expectations are high and you don’t expect any special favours just because you have been out of international cricket for so long. Now that I have played a few matches since my comeback, I am hopeful that I can continue the good performances and help my team in future.
Fawad Alam: No, these sort of thoughts never crossed my mind at all. My mindset was always that one day my chance to play for Pakistan would come again. I had faith in the Almighty that He would grant me another opportunity to play for Pakistan. If I had such negative thoughts, then I think I wouldn’t have been able to perform in domestic cricket and score the runs I did, and which ultimately enabled me to be picked once again. To lose faith and hope, and to become disillusioned would have been detrimental to my career. I always remained positive and never lost faith in my ability, and my plan was always to remain patient and wait for my opportunity, whenever it came.
PakPassion.net: How difficult was it to make a comeback to Test cricket after a gap of nearly 11 years?
Fawad Alam: There’s no doubt that it was difficult. It was like I was starting my international career from scratch and making my international debut once again. As a player representing the nation, you are proudly wearing the Star of Pakistan on your chest and of course expectations are high and whilst it was an honour to be back in Pakistan colours, I have to admit that there was also a lot of pressure on me. In such situations, you have to concentrate on doing all the good things and the right things that you did first time around and hope that things go well.
PakPassion.net: When you scored 168 on Test debut against Sri Lanka, did you ever think that a few matches later you wouldn’t play Test cricket for nearly 11 years?
Fawad Alam: You cannot think about such things, you don’t even dream about such things. As a player I have always just thought about my current performance and not even thought about the next match. Having said that, no I didn’t think that the gap would be 11 years after such a good performance on debut. But if you think about such things, they can affect you mentally. I would rather think about the positives which are that I have been given another chance and respect after such a long gap and I just planned to make the most of it. All players have ups and downs in their careers, and I have always felt that whatever is written for you in your fate will happen, and you just have to wait for the opportunities that arise. Who knows, maybe I did gain something positive in that 10 or 11-year gap from international cricket which helped me when I made my comeback!?
PakPassion.net: Has there been increased determination from you during this second-phase of your international career?
Fawad Alam: The focus and determination has always been there, whether it was the first phase of my international career or this second phase. You are playing for your country, there has to be focus, pride, determination and passion. When you play for your country, there is a unique feeling which is difficult to describe. My heart was set on to make sure that whenever the second opportunity came to represent Pakistan, I would perform well and grab this chance and make the most of it.
PakPassion.net: Is every successful innings a reminder to your critics and those who didn’t select you for nearly 11 years for Pakistan?
Fawad Alam: In all honesty, I feel that I am a nobody and as such who am I to prove that anyone was right or wrong in not picking me? I have always just focused on my own career and not worried about others. I never lost faith in the Almighty and always believed that my day would come again but that I would have to be patient and wait for the right moment. As I said, highs and lows are part of professional sport and I believe that my job is just to perform for Pakistan. Nobody is perfect and who am I to say who is right and who is wrong and who made correct decisions and who made incorrect decisions about my selection and career. If I keep thinking about such things, then that would serve no purpose at all. I feel it’s best to move on from what happened and focus on the coming days, matches and more opportunities to serve my country.
PakPassion.net: You are now regarded as a senior player in the Pakistan side compared with when you first came onto the scene. Has that changed your approach to the way you bat?
Fawad Alam: This is something to be pleased about when you are regarded as one of the senior players in the side and this is something that really boosts your confidence. As a senior player you have to squeeze out every bit of your experience and put what you have learnt over your career to good use, and at the same time help the younger guys. My philosophy and approach have always been about the preparation. Whether you are a senior player or junior player, the preparation has to be right. You have to be ready physically and mentally for every series and every tour and only then will you succeed.
PakPassion.net: On the topic of preparation for away series where you have been very successful, how different is the preparation for each series?
Fawad Alam: I’m not going to give away my secrets am I? Seriously though it all depends on where the series is being played. The pre-tour camps these days are excellent and very useful as that gets you ready for the upcoming series. We play several matches at the camps ahead of the tour and that really helps you work on any issues that you may be having, whether you are a bowler or a batsman. It’s really to fine-tune your game with the help of the coaches and also get you mentally ready for the upcoming challenge.
PakPassion.net: Given the recent struggles of Pakistan’s openers, how do you prepare yourself mentally to be ready to bat in the first few overs of the match?
Fawad Alam: To be fair to our openers, in the recent series against West Indies, the home side’s openers didn’t do much either apart from one innings by Kraigg Brathwaite. Abid Ali has done well since his introduction to international cricket where he has made a few centuries and he has performed. Imran Butt is new to international cricket and any new player needs time before they find their feet at this level. Every player needs time to improve and learn. Both Abid and Imran have done well in domestic cricket and they both have potential and talent and I believe they will deliver in future for Pakistan. Nobody comes into international cricket as the finished article, and you have to be patient with new players and give them adequate opportunities. International cricket is a tough environment, and you are continually learning and improving, and I have full faith in both Abid Ali and Imran Butt as Test openers.
PakPassion.net: Is there an ongoing problem in Pakistan cricket wherein senior players are kept in the side way past their prime and therefore block the progress of youngsters?
Fawad Alam: The criteria has to be performance, and performance alone. Ups and down happen, you have good spells and bad spells as an international cricketer. Just because you have a few poor matches as a senior player that shouldn’t mean that you are immediately dropped. If they are going through a bad patch, it shouldn’t be the case that they are left out. They are players who have performed over the years and regularly and that’s why they are still playing international cricket and know how to get through those rough patches and make impressive comebacks and score heavily.
PakPassion.net: Your batting stance won’t feature in any coaching manual. What do you say to those young cricketers who have an unorthodox approach to the game?
Fawad Alam: I have always believed that you play the game in the way how you see best. Whether that is your batting stance, your bowling action or how you field. My coaches have always believed in my ability and never tried to change my batting stance or turn me into a batsman who would feature on the front cover of any coaching manual. I never tried to copy anybody else’s batting stance or stroke-play and have never really concerned myself about how others bat. It’s all about what suits you and what works for you and to just believe in yourself. I would always encourage young cricketers to play the game how they feel comfortable and not to try to copy others too much. I would urge youngsters to play cricket in the way it feels natural to them and don’t worry too much about the technical side of things. If there are any major flaws or things that need tweaking then the coaches will help you with that, but don’t completely change your game just because it’s not in line with what is mentioned in any coaching books.
PakPassion.net: There’s a concern that Pakistan isn’t producing the quality batsmen that it once had at its disposal. Why do you think that is?
Fawad Alam: The way that domestic cricket is set-up is something that the Pakistan Cricket Board is responsible for. I believe that the current structure means that your best players are playing against each other and that produces some exceptional cricket. When your best players are playing First-class cricket then that will undoubtedly produce good players. However great players aren’t produced every day and you have to be patient and rely on the First-class structure to nurture and develop that talent which I think it will.
PakPassion.net: What advice do you offer to those cricketers who are currently disillusioned, on the side-lines, waiting for an opportunity?
Fawad Alam: Having been in that situation, my advice is simple. Keep working hard, don’t lose faith and never give up. Your time will come; it may not be today or tomorrow, but your time will definitely come and when that chance comes, grab it with both hands.
PakPassion.net: You are 35 years of age now what are your future plans?
Fawad Alam: The Almighty is the one who controls our present and future and I have left it to Him. I just hope He has some good plans for me in future as I still believe that God-willing I have a lot of cricket left in me yet.