Saeed Anwar, a prodigious run-scorer across formats, was known for possessing class. Javed Miandad was tipped ‘dangerous’ by everyone from Lillee to Hadlee, Kapil Dev to Ambrose.
Inzamam-ul-Haq was known for being consistent across formats. Younis Khan’s place is unchallenged amongst the greatest to have wielded the bat for Pakistan.
Fakhar Zaman, with 17 ODI innings under his belt and an international experience of not even close to 2 years has none of the above.
Yet, Fakhar has managed a feat that none of the greats has managed.
Against Zimbabwe, he gathered a memorable mark of history that eluded Pakistan cricket for nearly 7 decades of playing the game.
By scoring a magnificent 210, he’s become the first Pakistan batsman to have scored a double hundred in ODIs. Even before completing 20 ODI games, Fakhar Zaman altered the course of Pakistani cricket history.
Fakhar’s magnum opus might have come against Zimbabwe. But a double hundred in an ODI is a double hundred, nonetheless. We might be in an era where cricket appears contorted a tad bit, appearing to be more batsmen-oriented.
The boundaries on several grounds seem shorter and not necessarily every bowling attack seems to possess the depth or bite of a Proteas attack for that matter.
But you qualify to enter an elitist bracket of sorts when you strike a 200 in an ODI. It’s that moment of a rarity when even your opponents applaud your game, something that only a marathon knock in a Test warrant by usual admission.
It’s when your bat becomes a magic wand. It’s when you see in bowlers hapless kittens. Probably, the free-hitting left-hander saw just that in a Zimbabwe bowling attack where 3 of the most potent bowlers had a combined bowling experience of 54 ODIs; 18 games apiece.
Excellent Batting or ordinary bowling by Zimbabwe?
Particularly, in a vastly resurgent era, marked by constant improvements under the inspiring leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed, Fakhar’s effort is every bit worthy of an applause as is striking a 150 score in a T20.
Probably critics would rather label the feat as ‘nothing exemplary’. Probably for them, scoring a massive score against Zimbabwe- not even playing the 2019 World Cup could be likened to a pole-vaulter having to scale not the most challenging barricade of height.
Or, say a steeplechase runner having to run with fewer hurdles than found in a usual contest.
It’s something of that sorts.
But, it’s a serious feat scored against not the most serious side
And for that none are at fault- not least the man behind Pakistan’s highest peak in limited overs cricket. Probably when Fakhar Zaman stepped into bat at a relatively-flat batting track he might not have thought about the 194 that his compatriot Saeed Anwar struck nearly two decades back.
He may have only known that his task, at best, wasn’t as daunting as having to tame bulls at Bulawayo. But to be able to compile 210 and remain unbeaten, having batted consistently well for 221 minutes (closer to 4 hours)- he must be lauded for his concentration and an unrelenting approach with the willow.
Never before has he struck 24 boundaries in a single ODI inning, even as he’s creamed bowlers for more sixes in a T20 than what he did to Zimbabweans, on his way to plundering 5 hits over the rope.
None before him have managed to achieve the rear peak in limited-overs cricket.
But a few might go on to strike a bigger double-hundred.
And in here lays Fakhar’s true feat.
That his batting does not possess the technical proficiency of a Kane Williamson- another fluent scorer or the dogged perseverance of Virat makes his effort even more credible.
But comparisons be damned, having already scored 580 runs thus far while collecting 440 the previous year at an average of 44 should tell a thing or two about the man’s capability.
At 28, Fakhar’s at the peak of his fitness and is privileged enough to not experience the acrimony and bitterness that his former players have had to endure, whether it was Misbah or Afridi.
As a new side is taking flight, doing its earnest best in reassuring Pakistan that it possesses not just the talent but a hope to better its cricket’s future- it’s invaluable to have Fakhar in the middle.
Imagine for a second the current side minus Fakhar Zaman.
How well would Babar Azam and Azhar Ali continue to drain bowlers out, day and night?
Is Asad Shafiq in that quintessential purple patch of his career to hold an innings together?
Probably there’s no depth of experience in Fakhar’s game to warrant him a place among the most capable among today’s batsmen. And probably he’s done too little to afford himself comparisons with the most noted games. But for goodness’ sake, his career has only just begun.
Apart from being a fast runner between the wickets, someone who constantly ups the scoring ante when the sixes don’t come- Fakhar’s etched his name as a possible superstar after derailing India through his hundred against India in the 2017 Champion’s trophy.
For now, let us give the man his due and wait for further innings to truly understand his potential.