Pakistan could have saved the Test at Mount Maunganui if the top order had shown responsibility like Fawad Alam and stand-in captain Muhammad Rizwan.
Fawad and Rizwan with their 165-run fifth-wicket partnership almost saved the Test. Their gritty performance gives us some hope for the next Test.
Fawad, 35, with a fighting century on the final day, proved that he is still one of the most dependable middle-order batsmen in Pakistan. He defied New Zealand bowling for over six hours, scoring 102 off 269 balls. It was Fawad’s second Test century, after his debut hundred in 2009 against Sri Lanka.
Fawad stayed on the wicket for 396 minutes which is the longest in the 4th innings of a Test by a Pakistani batsman outside Asia. He surpassed Asad Shafiq’s record of staying for 336 minutes in Brisbane against Australia in 2016.
The 269 deliveries that he faced is also the most by a Pakistani batsman in the 4th innings of a Test outside Asia in 30 years.
He was dropped from the national side after the New Zealand series in 2009. He waited for around 11 and half years to reach the three-figure milestone again and it was the longest-ever wait for a player to score another Test century when there was no war.
Fawad returned to Test cricket after over 11 years in the series against England this year. He wasn’t successful on English soil but he availed himself of the opportunity against New Zealand.
In the absence of regular skipper Babar Azam and veteran Asad, Fawad took the responsibility in the middle order and proved his worth. He may not be the strongest boundary hitter around but sweet timing and strike rotation are his strengths.
Fawad has been traveling along the Pakistan team on many tours but is yet to cement his place in the side. This is not because of his bad performance, but lack of confidence shown by captains and coaches in his immense abilities.
It is very unfortunate that despite consistent performances in the domestic circuit, the collective wisdom of Dave Whatmore, Waqar Younis, Mickey Arthur, Grant Flower, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Misbah-ul-Haq didn’t recognise Fawad.
Normally the procedure of selecting the players for any national cricket team is based on the players’ performance in domestic matches. But the selection of the Pakistan team has always been controversial because it is not based on domestic performances.
Last year, Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah said that Fawad was overlooked for the tour of Australia because Iftikhar Ahmed had a better average than Fawad in the last season. But selecting Iftikhar on the basis of performance in just one season was unjust with Fawad. Iftikhar has an overall average of 40.14 runs in first class matches. Fawad, who has played 163 first-class matches, has maintained an average of over 55 runs for many seasons.
Despite being treated so badly, he remained silent and let his bat speak for him.
He made his first-class debut in 2003 at the age of 17. Fawad is capable of playing at different positions. He is also a good fielder and handy slow left-arm orthodox bowler.
In his 173 first-class matches, Fawad scored 12,835 runs, including 37 centuries and 61 fifties at a high average of 56.54.
Since 2013, Fawad has had the highest batting average in Pakistan’s first-class history. He has scored more runs than anyone else on the first-class circuit since the start of the 2015-16 season, and among active players, only Steven Smith and Hanuma Vihari have better first-class averages.
Fawad is the second fastest to score 10,000 first-class runs in Pakistan. He did so in his 189th innings. Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah achieved the landmark in their 219th and 221st innings, respectively.
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 an ODI 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.
Former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan during his tenure 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 the then chief selector Inzamam defended his decision of not picking Fawad by saying that he had seen better players than Fawad in the last three years.
Despite being ignored time and again, Fawad never blamed anyone. In an interview, he said: “A player’s job is to remain fit and keep on performing in whatever opportunities you get in the domestic circuit. These things pay off one day. As far as my selection is concerned, only the selection committee can answer that question. I’m trying my hardest to do whatever is expected of a player.”
After the failure of Iftikhar and other players finally selectors had to select Fawad.
With regular chances in the national team, Fawad could play an instrumental role in the middle-order for the next few years.