Flying high

The prolific Mohammad Rizwan has proved his mettle in all formats of the game

Most cricket fans believe that batsmen and bowlers are the most important members of a team and that it is their performances that decide the match. But wicket-keeping is as important as these two, if not more important. It is a specialist role and an extremely significant position that can affect a game massively. The wicketkeeper has to be vigilant throughout the innings. His catches, stumpings and run-outs not only can boost a team’s morale but can also turn the game around.Till the 90s, wicket-keepers were generally expected to keep wickets and bat a bit and any contribution from his bat was considered a bonus.

But in modern cricket, wicket-keepers are expected to be as good as specialist batsmen. And this is because of such classy cricketers as Adam Gilchrist, Kumara Sangakkarra, MS Dhoni and Brendon McCullum.

From Imtiaz Ahmed to Mohammad Rizwan, more than 20 wicket-keepers have played for Pakistan. Some of them were good batsmen too such as Tasleem Arif, Saleem Yousuf, Moin Khan, Rashid Latif, Kamran Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed.

In recent years, Pakistan has found a quality wicket-keeper batsman in Mohammad Rizwan, who has proved his worth in all three formats.

Rizwan, 28, played his first Twenty20 for Pakistan on April 24, 2015, against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Rizwan made his ODI debut shortly after the 2015 World Cup. He started his career confidently against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, averaging nearly 60 in his first eight innings. But after some below par performance against quality oppositions, he lost his place to Sarfraz Ahmed for the World T20 in 2016.

From 2015 to December 2020, in his first 25 Twenty20 matches, he failed to score a fifty. But from the New Zealand tour to Zimbabwe series, in 11 T20 innings, he scored six fifties and one hundred at an incredible average of more than 100 and a strike rate of over 135.

His batting average of 79.14 while playing as an opener in the shortest format is the highest for Pakistan. In the middle-order, Rizwan averaged 16.81 in T20I cricket from 15 innings, with his strike rate a lowly 96.35.

In the last 12 months or so, no wicket-keeper has averaged as much (79.14); no one has scored more T20 runs than Rizwan’s 554 runs in 12 innings. Even England’s Dawid Malan, the world’s No 1 in T20Is, scored 534 runs in 14 innings in the same period.

Rizwan has the highest average of 44.36 as a wicket-keeper batsman in the shortest format of the game. Overall he has the fifth best average in the Twenty20s, behind Virat Kohli (52.65), DJ Malan (50.15), Babar Azam (47.32) and RN ten Doeschate (44.41).

Rizwan is just the second player from Pakistan to hit a century in all three formats in international cricket. Ahmed Shahzad was the first.

Rizwan is only the second keeper in the world to do that. Brendon McCullum was the first. Overall in all three formats, Rizwan has scored four centuries and 15 fifties.

In his last four T20I series - in New Zealand, in Pakistan against South Africa, in South Africa and in Zimbabwe - Rizwan has averaged 42.67, 98.50, 73.50 and 186, respectively. His overall strike rate has been 140 over the course of these four series.

Rizwan has also been successful in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). He was the top scorer before the sixth edition was stopped midway because of coronavirus. He has scored 297 runs at an average of 59.40 and strike rate of 140.09.

Recently Rizwan achieved another milestone when Wisden included him in its 2021 list of ‘cricketers of the year’ for his performance during the English season last year. Rizwan is the 18th Pakistani in history to be named by Wisden.

In the absence of injured Babar Azam, Rizwan led Pakistan in New Zealand in two Tests last year. Though the Green-shirts lost both Tests, Rizwan’s performance remained outstanding. In his four innings he scored 71, 61, 60 & 10 - a total of 202 runs, averaging 50.50.

Flying high