A little context will help. It will help you in understanding the point of view of the troll you blocked last night. It will help you understand why choosing the next army chief is such a big deal in Pakistan, especially for the media. It will help Ms Clinton understand why she lost with such a massive margin. But context is hard to get. This rings true especially when it is against your own stance. Why bother? I have won and I will rub it in. I sound like President elect Donald Trump’s transition team such is the pains of post truth world. Nevertheless, my urge to remain in the pre-truth world, forces me to look at context. I like to at least try and see why the point is being made. It is privilege, ignorance, or religious context to it or just the urge to be different?
In cricket, context can mean different things. Did the bowler get only late order wickets? Was it a rank turner or a green top? How good were the opposition? Did umpiring decisions go against or for him? How many overs did he get to bat? What was his batting/bowling order? Was he given a chance before he was ready? Cricket especially the longer form provides more context than any other sports. You can make a case for your favourite player in different ways, apart from just numbers.
Having emphasized the importance of context, I will now shatter the idea. There comes a time when context doesn’t help. It becomes irrelevant. There is no room to doubt the performance. It is repeated so many times and with such frequency that any room for uncertainty should not be present. In cricketing terms, when a batsman scores heavily and consistently, that context becomes irrelevant. He has scored on rank turners, and coped with green tops. He has played under pressure with wickets down and played with the pressure to score quickly. He has played with top, middle and late order batsmen. He has tackled tough bowling and feasted on weak ones. The context becomes context of a larger story of a mightily competent batsman.
Only that it hasn’t, to the disappointment of many. This is the story of Fawad Alam. Pakistan’s odd obsession of keeping out left handed middle order batsmen. Fawad Alam is Asim Kamal of the social media age. But unlike Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam doesn’t seem to go away. If one conducts a survey on the most memes made on a cricket, Fawad Alam is likely to come out on top. He is there because he keeps scoring runs at whatever level he plays at. He is in the news, because the Chairman of the Cricket shows his powerlessness on Fawad Alam’s non selection. The mind boggles, it makes no sense but it continues to happen, time and again.
Since Fawad Alam’s debut in Sri Lanka, 12 batsmen have made their debuts in Tests for Pakistan. I include openers, because Fawad Alam opened and scored 165 against Sri Lanka. Out of which only 2, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have cemented their place in the test side. Umer Akmal has degenerated implausibly. The murmurs of bias about selection of Shan Masood and Umer Amin never did really go away. Muhammad Ayub and Iftikhar Ahmad probably elongated the list of one cap wonders. Nasir Jamshed and Ahmad Shehzad paid the price of poor ODI performances. For one reason or another, these players did become fixtures in the test side. Out of the remaining three, Babar Azam and Sami Aslam have started out well. Rizwan’s selection as a batsman was baffling. He was clearly unprepared, reflected by an instinctive hook of the 1st ball in test cricket and by exposing the tail, when shepherding was essential. The point here is out of 12 batmen tried post dropping Fawad Alam, only 2 have succeeded.
I am not a big fan of banging out numbers to prove my point. The context as discussed in cricket is essential. However, when some averages above 49 in each of the last 6 seasons, the context is almost irrelevant. In all positions, in all situations and against all types of bowlers, Fawad Alam would have made runs. It is baffling how he keeps getting ignored. It is the technique? Why does it matter? Is there no space in the middle order? Well, whenever there has been a space, someone else gets picked. There have been numerous changes in the selection committee, cricket board, captains, coaches, but Fawad Aam remains out of favour. I fear that Fawad Alam will be the Asim Kamal of this generation. Only that Fawad Alam was so much better.