Decoding the Fawad Alam stance

The bowler's peripheral vision when they run in, is still not trained to see so much action from the batsmen.

So many have never been proven wrong in a single day. No, he didn't have an exposed technique. Yes, his first class stats need to be taken seriously. A clear message sent out by the southpaw after his ton against the Kiwis.

“I wonder what guard he takes ?”, “I think he asks for behind square leg”. This back and forth happened on air midway through the marathon innings from Fawad Alam in Pakistan's recently concluded test against the Kiwis.Just one example of the now accustomed ridiculing of the Fawad Alam stance. There has been a lot of chatter about why his technique was never going to be successful against a moving ball. Of course, one can understand where this concern stems from.

When he made his comeback in England earlier this year, he was sandwiched between 2 great talents in the Pakistan set up. Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam. Two batsmen pleasing to the eye so much so that even their dismissals were elegant. And no wonder, the memes were pouring in and the decision to bring him back questioned by the experts.

"I don’t understand why they have made that decision to bring in a guy, who has not played for 11 years and is 34 years of age, It’s very typical of what Pakistan do. With that technique, he [Fawad] is basically facing the wrong way when the ball is being delivered. If the ball is moving an inch, he is going to get out. I don’t think this was the time to play Fawad Alam"

Michael Vaughan on Fawad's technique and inclusion during Pakistan's tour to England in 2020

Little did they see what was coming in New Zealand. Even when Fawad notched up a century against a NZ-A side in one of the unofficial tests, they saw it as no indication of things to come in the test series. Their argument : "Boult, Southee, Jamieson and Wagner are a different kettle of fish".

Yes, the trigger movement is completely different. There are just so many moving parts in that technique. Two to three trigger movement before he gets ready to face the ball side-on. Almost all other batsmen have a single trigger movement, a small forward press, before they face up to the delivery. Therein lies the complication of this technique. Fawad has to do all his shuffling movements in just about the same time as the other batsmen do a single forward press. But when he finishes that ritual of his, he is virtually in that traditional position, ready to face the cricket ball.

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If ever there was one place that could put his technique to a thorough examination, it was New Zealand. The fact that his technique came through unscathed, means that he managed to do most of the basics right. One thing that is pretty fundamental and is often overlooked is the head position and balance at the crease. After all those shuffles, Alam's head doesn't fall over. It is perfectly steady. As the innings progressed, it appeared to me that he was going through that transition from the unconventional stance to a side-on stance quicker. The faster transition means more time in hand and better balance. As complicated as the technique might look, in Fawad's mind it is uncomplicated and natural. That is what matters in the end.

What could also be argued is that his very many shuffling movements at the crease is throwing off the bowler's line and length. Their peripheral vision when they run in, is still not trained to see so much action from the batsmen. This might also explain why the ever so consistent Kiwis were missing their targets in the later half of Fawad's innings. The talk about his technique is not going away anytime soon. There will be many more of them decoding his technique now, may be in a more optimistic way.

As the old saying goes, one size doesn't fit all. Neither does one technique fit all batsmen. Fawad has just given us a lesson in technique and opened up a question that is here to stay, 'How important is it to have a text book technique to tackle difficult conditions?'. For now, we just have to sit back and give this technique a chance to succeed.