2021... The year of Rizwan and Babar

January 16, 2022

The duo’s unique blend of grit and poise, of valour and virtuosity all blended into one has ignited the spirits of team members and supporters alike, generating optimism for the future of Pakistan cricket

2021... The year of Rizwan and Babar

The year 2021 will be remembered in Pakistani cricket history as one that was replete with the repeated exploits of a duo of supremely talented players, who produced a plethora of records on a scale that our national team had not witnessed before.Babar was recognized as a precocious talent when the year began, his ability and class had already drawn lavish praise from ex-cricketers like Ricky Ponting, Kerry O'Keefe, Michael Holding and Inzamamul Haq. Rizwan, though, was still a relatively unknown quantity and many had been surprised by his inclusion as one of the five cricketers of the year by Wisden in 2021. Wisden's belief in Rizwan, however, proved to be an act of propitious clairvoyance or opportune foresight as the events of 2021 unfolded.

Pakistan played a total of 9 Tests, 6 ODIs and 29 T20 Internationals in the year 2021. Rizwan played in all 44 matches while Babar who missed a Test because of injury took part in 43 matches.

Mohammad Rizwan

Rizwan has been named as PCB's most valuable cricketer of the year for 2021, a year in which he truly shone both as a keeper and a batsman, outperforming even the more illustrious Babar Azam.

His glove work had been highly acknowledged during Pakistan's short England tour of 2020, when Michael Atherton, the former England captain and a shrewd judge of playing ability said, "Mohammad Rizwan has been the wicketkeeper of the summer in terms of pure glove work", while another ex England skipper Nasser Hussain went as far as saying, "Out of all the foreign wicketkeepers that have come to England, I think he's been the best for a long, long time". High praise indeed from two of the most respected pundits of the game.

A late entrant into the Pakistan side because of Sarfaraz Ahmed's presence, Rizwan's agility and and acrobatic dives on rough, hazardous grounds, had been noticed even in his youth, winning him the soubriquet 'Jonty' after the famous South African fielding legend. Since breaking into the national team his class and consistency, both behind the wickets and at the batting crease, have earned him a new epithet, Pakistan cricket's Mr. Reliable.

Mohammad Rizwan
Mohammad Rizwan

2021 has been an idyllic time for Rizwan showcasing him at the peak of his remarkable all round talent. Here is a list of his record setting accomplishments and the milestones he reached in this golden year.

Most runs in all T20s in a calendar year

In 2021, Rizwan became the first player to score over 2000 runs in T20s in a single year. His tally was 2036 runs, in 45 innings, at an average of 56.55 with a strike rate of 132.03 runs per 100 balls. This is the highest number of runs ever scored in T20's in a calendar year, easily beating the previous record of 1655 set by Chris Gayle in 2015. Incidentally, the second highest figure for the year was Babar Azam's with 1779 runs, which also comfortably bettered Chris Gayle's total.

Most runs ever in T20 Internationals in a calendar year

Rizwan also set a new record for most T20 International runs in a calendar year in 2021, with 1326 runs from 26 innings, averaging 73.66 runs per innings and a strike rate of 134.89 runs per 100 balls. This beat the record of 748 runs set by Paul Stirling of Ireland in 2019. Interestingly, Babar Azam also beat this record, by scoring 939 runs in 2021, second only to Rizwan's record tally, securing another one-two for Pakistan.

Most consistent batsman in T20s

In 30 of his 45 T20 innings Rizwan scored more than 30 runs, with only 6 innings of single digit scores. At the start of the year he had 9 successive 40 plus scores.

Most consistent batsman in T20 Internationals

Rizwan was also a model of consistency in T20 Internationals in 2021. In 20 of his 26 innings he had scores of 30 plus, including 7 which were made in consecutive innings, the longest ever streak of it's type by any player in T20 International history.

Most runs in international cricket in 2021

Rizwan was the most successful batsman in international cricket overall in 2021, with 1915 runs at an average of 56.32, a strike rate of 94.38 runs per 100 balls, with 2 centuries and 15 fifties. He was followed by Joe Root with 1855 runs, while Babar Azam was 3rd with 1760 runs at an average of 40.93.

Most 50 plus scores ever in T20 Internationals

Rizwan created yet another world record by making 13 scores of over fifty in 2021, the first time that anyone had done so more than 10 times. His tally included one century. Babar was second with 10 fifty plus scores, also inclusive of a century. Pakistan had the top two positions in yet another category.

Best average for an opener in T20

In 2021, Rizwan also attained the honour of having the highest career average as an opener in T20 Internationals. By the end of the year he had scored 1454 runs as an opener, from 29 innings, with an average of 69.23.

Most sixes in T20
Internationals in 2021

Rizwan was the leading hitter of sixes in 2021 with 42 sixes, edging out Martin Guptill of New Zealand who managed 41 hits over the fence.

Most fours in a year
in T20 Internationals history

Rizwan scored 119 boundaries in 2021, becoming the first batsman ever in the history of T20 Internationals to cross the hundred boundaries mark. He was followed Babar Azam with 99, yet another double whammy for Pakistan.

Most Dismissals by a Wicketkeeper in T20s in any year

Rizwan's record breaking feats were not confined to batting alone. He also established a new world record in 2021 for the highest number of wicketkeeping dismissals in T20 cricket in a year. His 47 victims broke Dhoni's record of 39 dismissals which had been set in 2016. Rizwan's tally of 47 included 41 catches and 6 stumpings.

Only Pakistani wicketkeeper to score a
century in all 3 formats of cricket

By scoring his maiden T20 century and his first Test century in 2021, both against South Africa, Rizwan became the first Pakistani wicketkeeper to acquire a hundred in all three formats of the game.

Most runs by a wicketkeeper in a 3 match T20 International series

Rizwan scored 203 runs in the 3 match T20 International series against the West Indies in December 2021 to establish a new world best.

Most Player of the Series Awards

Rizwan won a total of 6 Player of the Series awards in 2021 in all formats of international cricket, 4 in T20 Internationals and 2 in Test cricket. This equaled Sachin Tendulkar's record of 6 in 1998. His 4 T20 International awards constitute an all time high figure for any player in this shortened format.

Babar Azam

Babar Azam
Babar Azam

Babar Azam is a majestic stroke-maker, already being acclaimed as one of the greatest in Pakistan's rich history of outstanding batsmen. The effortless ease of his stroke play, finding perfect position to deliver shots of pure vintage, simply oozes class. Wisden was effusive in their praise "his technique is so pure that he doesn't really do failure: the good balls get smothered, the bad ones are cuffed away with clinical poise. If there is a criticism, it's that he's so good, he should dominate even more". His cover drive has been extolled as the 'signature shot of the era'.

Below is a list of many landmarks that Babar reached and some records that he established in 2021.

Pakistan's leading
career run scorer in
T20 Internationals

In 2021 Babar overtook Mohammad Hafeez as Pakistan's leading career run maker in T20 Internationals. He finished the year on 2620 runs from 73 matches, at an average of 45.17 per innings and a strike rate of 129.12 runs per 100 balls, surpassing Hafeez's total of 2514 runs from 119 matches.

Fastest to score 2000 T20 International runs

During his innings of 52 versus Zimbabwe at Harare in April 2021, Babar Azam became the fastest batsman to reach 2000 runs in T20 Internationals, achieving this milestone in 52 innings from 54 matches.

Most 50 plus scores in T20's in 2021

Babar, like Rizwan, has been a model of consistency in T20s, becoming the first batsman ever to compile 20 fifty plus scores in T20 cricket in a single year. His tally consisted of 2 centuries and 18 fifties. The second position in this category also went to Pakistan with 19 fifties by Mohammad Rizwan.

No. 1 ranked ICC player in two formats

Babar Azam achieved the singular distinction of ending 2021 as the top batsman in the ICC ranking list in two formats, namely ODIs and T20 Internationals. Prior to this only Ricky Ponting, in 2005, had headed the ICC batting list in two formats, in his case Tests and ODIs.

Only batsman to be ranked in Top 10 in all 3 formats

Babar's sublime form over the past few years has led him to being the only batsman in the world to be presently ranked in ICC's Top 10 list in all 3 formats of the game.

Highest scorer in 2021 T20 World Cup

Babar Azam was the top scorer in the 2021 T20 World Cup with 303 runs at an average of 60.6 and a strike rate of 126.25 runs per 100 balls.

Highest number of
runs in maiden T20 World Cup

Babar's total of 303 runs in the T20 World Cup was also the highest number of runs scored by a batsman in his maiden appearance at this format's World Cup. He was followed by Mohammad Rizwan with 281 runs, both overtaking the previous record of 265 set by Matthew Hayden of Australia in the inaugural T20 World Cup of 2007.

Second highest number of fours in a T20
International innings

While scoring his maiden T20 International century of 122 against South Africa at Centurion Park in April 2021, Babar hit 15 fours in his blistering 59 ball knock. This is the second highest number of fours ever struck in a T20 International, just behind Aaron Finch's record of 16 against Zimbabwe during his innings of 172 in 2018.

Most successful
Pakistani captain

Contrary to contemporary practice, Babar was entrusted with Pakistan's captaincy for all three formats of the game and he amply justified his appointment. Under his captaincy Pakistan triumphed in 7 out of 8 Tests and in 20 of the 29 T20 Internationals they played in 2021. Pakistan's 20 victories in T20 Internationals in 2021 made them the first side to secure twenty T20 InteInternational wins in a calendar year.

Quickest to reach 1000 T20 International runs as captain

During the T20 World Cup in 2021, Babar became the fastest player to score1000 T20 International runs as captain. He attained this mark in 26 innings beating Virat Kohli's previous record of 30 innings.

Most runs as captain
in all T20s in a calendar year

Babar scored a total of 1225 runs as captain in all T20's in 2021, beating the previous best yearly tally of 986 by Kohli in 2018.

Most T20 International runs as captain in a
calendar year

Babar Azam's aggregate of 939 T20 IInternational runs in 2021 is also the highest scored by a captain in a calendar year.

Most fifty plus T20
International scores as captain

As captain Babar has crossed the fifty mark on 16 occasions, with a solitary century. His 16 fifty plus scores are the highest by a captain in T20 International history.

Partnerships between Rizwan and Babar

In addition to their individual achievements, Rizwan and Babar have also performed exceptionally well as a partnership. Their successes as a pair are recorded here under.

Most partnership runs in all international matches in a calendar year

Rizwan and Babar were involved in 30 partnerships in 2021, 25 in T20 Internationals, 2 in ODIs and 3 in Tests. Together they put on a total of 1647 runs at an average of 56.79 with 7 centuries and 4 fifties. Their tally is the highest by any pair in 2021.

Most partnership runs
in T20 Internationals
in 2021

In T20 Internationals alone in 2021, Rizwan and Babar added a world record total of 1380 runs together, averaging 57.50 with 6 centuries and 3 fifties. Their run rate was 8.10 runs per over. They also became the first pair to score more than 1000 runs together in all T20's in a calendar year, beating the previous record of 939 runs set up by Kohli and DeVilliers in the IPL in 2016.

Most century partnerships in all international cricket in 2021

Rizwan and Babar were involved in a record number of 7 century partnerships in all international matches in 2021, 6 in T20 Internationals and one in an ODI.

Most century
partnerships in T20

Rizwan and Babar had 6 century stands in T20 Internationals in 2021. This is not only the best performance in a calendar year, but also the highest number of hundred plus partnerships by any pair in the history of T20 Internationals, beating the previous record of 5 century stands between Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.

Most T20 International partnerships of 150 plus

Of the 6 century stands by this formidable pair in T20 Internationals in 2021, 4 were above 150 which is also a world record.

Most T20 International century partnerships while chasing targets

Out of the 6 century partnerships posted by this peerless opening pair, 3 were scored when Pakistan were under the pressure of chasing a target. All 3 were big stands of over 150 each, 197 against South Africa at Centurion Park, 152 versus India in the T20 World Cup and 158 against the West Indies at Karachi in Pakistan's last international match of 2021. Needless to say Pakistan were successful in all three chases.

Highest opening
partnership in T20
World Cup history

The unbeaten opening wicket stand between Rizwan and Babar against India in the 2021 World Cup was the highest in T20 World Cup history and inflicted on India it's worst ever defeat in this format of the game

Playing a World Cup semifinal after spending two previous nights in an ICU

And finally a record of different sorts, one about courage and commitment, an act that shows the real character of a player. During the World Cup Rizwan developed a significant chest infection that required hospitalization in an ICU for two nights. On the third morning, he discharged himself from the hospital, turning up to play in the semifinals against Australia later that day. Though Pakistan lost, Rizwan top scored. Such is the mettle of the man.

Rizwan and Babar form an exceptionally gifted duo that has dazzled the cricketing firmament in 2021, accumulating a staggering stockpile of records with a nonchalance bordering on arrogance. Their unique blend of grit and poise, of valour and virtuosity all blended into one has ignited the spirits of team members and supporters alike, generating optimism for the future of Pakistan cricket. We all wait with bated breath for more gifts from them to savour in the new year that has recently dawned.

– Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.


2021... The year of Rizwan and Babar