Representing one’s own country in Tests is what every budding cricketer dreams of. Attaining that glorious white jersey requires tremendous will power, confidence and commitment.
First-class cricket is the main platform where players have to prove themselves in order to gain the big ticket to the international stage. They make mistakes, they learn and they gain experience to finally be picked to represent their nation in Tests after selectors believe they have become seasoned campaigners.
However, there are still some players who are unable to replicate their first-class form in Test cricket either due to their inability to cope with the pressure of international cricket or simply due to bad luck and misfortune.
In this article, we will have a look at five Pakistani players who were absolute gems for their teams in the domestic arena but failed to replicate the same form and record for their national sides in Test cricket.
#1 Mohammad Sami
A fast bowler who was a pivotal part of the Pakistani limited-overs side a decade ago couldn’t do much when it came to Test cricket. On his day, Sami was one of those Pakistani fast bowlers who could be a nightmare for even the best of batsmen.
His first-class figures – 569 wickets in 169 matches at an average of 28.11 – certainly speak a lot of his ability as a fast bowler.
Both his attributes of pace and swing were lethal. 85 wickets in 36 Tests may sound like a decent figure but a bowling average of 52.74 certainly is not pleasing to the eye. He had a dream start to his Test career taking a 5-wicket haul against New Zealand in his first Test and subsequently taking a hat-trick against Sri Lanka in what was only his third Test.
However, his form gradually faded away and he began leaking runs in Tests without taking a sufficient number of wickets. The Pakistani team management tried their best to stick with him, though. They tested him with the new ball; when that failed, they asked him to bowl as a third seamer for a few matches.
But nothing solved the problem and he was ultimately dropped from the squad after the 2006 series against India. Since then, he continued to make sporadic appearances in the squad on the back of strong domestic performances but something always went wrong when it came to playing international Test cricket.
#2 Intikhab Alam
Can you imagine a player with 1571 wickets and 14331 runs? No?! But believe me, these are the bowling and batting numbers of Intikhab Alam in first-class cricket. He played a total of 489 first-class matches but when it came to representing his country in Tests, he could play only 47 games, scoring 1473 runs and taking 125 wickets; just about 10% of his first-class numbers.
He captained Pakistan in 17 Tests and made them a force to reckon with in both home and away matches. While his numbers in Test cricket may give the impression that he was not that successful in the international arena, one should remember that Alam belonged to the 1960/70 era when not much international cricket was played.
#3 Faisal Iqbal
Faisal Iqbal, the nephew of the enigmatic Javed Miandad, represented Pakistan in 26 Tests. While he was always considered to be a quality batsman on the basis of his first-class records – he amassed over 12000 runs at an average of over 40 in 213 matches – his Test numbers of 1124 runs in 26 matches at an average of just 26.76 tell a totally different story.
In the first Test against Australia at Colombo in 2003/04, Iqbal produced an aggressive counter-attacking 83 off 84 balls that silenced his critics. However, he failed to produce anything notable in the rest of the series and the following series against South Africa.
After a lean patch with the bat, a superb maiden Test century against India at Karachi revived his career as it helped Pakistan win the 2005/06 series. A couple of gritty fifties followed in the next couple of matches but his form remained erratic and soon began to deteriorate. He failed to produce anything notable with the bat in the following matches and was finally dropped after a prolonged period of poor form.
#4 Sikander Bakht
Bakht was another one of those fast bowling giants in first-class cricket who failed to make a name for himself in Test cricket. He was one of the finest fast bowlers in domestic cricket as first-class numbers of 553 wickets in 186 matches at an average of 25.16 would suggest.
Although he made his Test debut for Pakistan at the tender age of 19, his career spanned only seven years as the arrival of players like Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram meant there was no room for a bowler like him.
He was a bowler who relied on the conditions and pitch to make things happen while the trio of Khan, Akram and Younis could produce magic with the ball at will. However, those who have seen him bowl in first-class matches know why he was one of the most respected and feared bowlers in Pakistan's domestic arena.
#5 Azhar Mahmood
Azhar Mahmood began his Test career with three centuries against South Africa but ended up with only 21 Test matches to his name. A total of 900 runs and 39 wickets in Tests do not speak volumes of his quality as an all-rounder.
However, his first-class numbers are quite impressive. 7703 runs at an average of around 32 and a mammoth tally of 611 wickets at an average of 25.11 always meant he was in the selectors’ minds. No one knows why Pakistan lost faith in this classy all-rounder, but he has certainly moved on. He is now a British citizen and has been plying his trade as a T-20 specialist in different leagues around the world.