Mohammad Rizwan’s power is his belief. He is Pakistan’s elan vital as he has been the team’s most prolific scorer in the shortest format. Pakistan will hope the short-statured but high-on-resolve batter cum wicketkeeper keeps his astounding form in the World Cup in Australia.
With his run scoring in almost every game, Rizwan was crowned as ICC’s number one batsman in Twenty20 internationals, displacing his fellow opener and skipper Babar Azam.
Belief is key for Rizwan. It is his forte. He thrives on his strong belief in religion, in the Almighty, and in his and his fellow players’ hard work.
“I knew the match was in our hands,” Rizwan said. “I wanted to finish the game but got out to a slower one from Hardik (Panday) but I have that belief that we have Asif (Ali), Khushdil (Shah), Iftikhar (Ahmed) and Shadab (Khan) so the match was in control. It would have been nice to finish the game but such things are part and parcel of the game.
“It’s our second win against India in less than a year,” rejoiced Rizwan. “We are gradually progressing towards our goal — to be the best team in the world. All the players are committed under a good skipper and we are very united. Our belief is our strength.”
Belief in abundance
“I am a firm believer in that Almighty Allah helps those who put their shoulder in the wheel and belief in Almighty and belief in their abilities. We had not beaten India much but now we have beaten them in two games in less than a year. The belief that we can beat any team on our day is great. With that confidence we will do our best in the Asia Cup. No doubt, the goal is to win the trophy but all that is in our hands is to work hard, do our best on the ground and results come with that effort.”
With Babar Azam in a rut of low scores, managing just 68 in the Asia Cup, Rizwan atoned for his fellow opener and skipper’s failures. With a tally of 281 at an average of 56.20 and at a strike rate of 117.57 he was tournament’s top run getter. Then he was perched at the top again on run charts when England came to Pakistan after a big gap of 17 years, scoring 315 in six of the seven matches he played. So impactful has been his performances in company of Babar that when the duo doesn’t score then Pakistan fumble.
Even in the tri-series in New Zealand, Rizwan’s midas touch did not go. Although he was pushed to second by Devon Conway’s 233, his aggregate of 201 at an improved strike rate of 122.56 was enough to help Pakistan to the tri-series title.
“He is our Mr Belief,” Babar said during the Asia Cup. “During the innings break he was the one who was convincing us that we will chase down the 182-run target. He is a different character. His belief in the Almighty, in his abilities and in players’ abilities is unparalleled. He was in ICU before the semi-final (Twenty20 World Cup last year) and came out from there and played the match. ”
While the world sings his praises, legendary former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram is enamoured with his belief and hard work. Babar admires Rizwan’s contribution to the team.
“Rizwan is exceptional in his belief and work ethics,” Wasim told KT. “He thumped into the ground and got jarred but after treatment continued to keep wickets and then batted for 17 overs. Had there been a feeble hearted player he would have left but Rizwan didn’t. He is an exceptional athlete and I think one of the most determined and passionate cricketers in the world. He is invaluable to the Pakistan team,” added Akram.
A wicketkeeper is the engine room of any team as he drives the players from behind the stumps. Rizwan has been that cog in both the roles as ‘keeper and a batter.
Ever since he replaced the much mellowed former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Rizwan has been phenomenal.
He made the wicketkeeper batsman’s spot his own, thriving in all three formats. He was the leading run-getter in Twenty20 internationals in 2021 with 1326 runs — the only batter ever to score over 1,000 runs in a year and 2036 — most by any batsman in a 12-month period. This year too Rizwan has been top of the chart with 821 runs in 18 T20Is — 1642 in 37 T20 matches which are the most this year.
“Almighty has been very kind,” said a thankful Rizwan. “I keep belief in my ability and in my team. This is my strong point. If you have belief then all doors open for you. These records and rankings are always the byproduct of your hard work and belief.”
Be it Pat Cummins or Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammad Shami, even the battle scarred veterans James Anderson or Stuart Broad could not scare him, neither did Kagiso Rabada nor Anrich Nortje…. in fact he did not know some of the names.
Who cares when there is BELIEF!
Rizwan has that sort of belief. Ignorance is bliss for him. It is usual for him. He stands at the crease with conviction, plays his shots with whatever he knows about batting and the just reward are runs.
“Why bother about something that you cannot control,” he asserts. “Whoever is the opponent, whoever is the bowler, I have to believe in my ability. I have that confidence to do well because I have done my hard work. ”
Runs, aplenty for this simple and passionate chap from Peshawar. In fact in the last one year, Rizwan has even overshadowed Pakistan’s best batsman Babar, even in the longer format, where he has been Pakistan’s saviour.
Rizwan was destined to play cricket because he believed in his abilities. At home his father wanted him to study but he eschewed his prying eyes and used to practice when the inhabitants of his neighbourhood were sleeping. His dusk to dawn practices came to fruition and father relented.
The father was impressed with Rizwan’s belief
Rizwan has surprised everyone with his prolific form? It was worth the wait on the sidelines. Rizwan was not getting an opening as Sarfaraz was skipper of all three formats and doing well. But Rizwan was continuously knocking at the door since 2018.
“I knew my time would come,” Rizwan quipped. “I was working out of my skin with an aim to get a place in the national team. My time has come and I want to make the most of it.” And Rizwan rose high and high, true to his words.
It was former head coach Misbah-ul-Haq who brought Rizwan in 2019. The confidence in Sarfaraz was lost and Rizwan was made the number one choice. First came the Tests, in November 2019. Exactly to the date four years after he played his only Test at Hamilton. That was a forgettable one, dismissed without scoring, off a silly hook shot from Neil Wagner, the habitual short pitcher. As Pakistan failed valiantly to save the Test — lost by 138 runs — Rizwan was left stranded on 13 not out.
At Australia’s fortress, the Gabba in Brisbane, Rizwan looked like a different batsman. He wasn’t awestruck, as he was at Hamilton four years ago, and his 37 were inclusive of seven boundaries which proved he was in command at all times. He followed that up with a fighting 94 after walking Pakistan five down for just 95, fighting to avoid an innings defeat. Rizwan added 132 with Babar. Babar did go on to complete his hundred, but cruelly Rizwan fell short.
“That was the turning point in my career,” rescinds Rizwan. “Then I was given a chance to open the innings and I had that belief that I will do to the best of my ability and I did that for my team.”
Since his 89 not out in Pakistan’s consolation win in New Zealand two years ago, Rizwan has been the team’s mainstay in the shortest format. Since that Napier knock, Rizwan has smashed a hundred and all his other five half centuries. He finished as man of the series in the T20I series against South Africa at home and second best in the return tour. When Pakistan won the T20Is in Zimbabwe the main contributions were from Rizwan, 82 not out and 91 not out. Deservedly, he took away man of the series laurels. Another reward of being amongst the “Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the year” beckoned.
His best moment came in the opening game of the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai. On October 24, 2021, Pakistan won for the first time against India in 13 attempts in the ICC events. Shaheen Shah Afridi bamboozled the Indian top order with wickets of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma and then returned to account for Virat Kohli. Surprisingly, Pakistan cruised to a ten-wicket win — India’s first ten wicket defeat in a T20Is — 13 balls to spare. Rizwan hit a brilliant 79 not out and Babar an undefeated 68.
The scenes after the match were a pleasant surprise for everyone. Indian maestro Virat Kholi sharing a moment with Babar and Rizwan — details of which he doesn’t want to share.
“When we meet we do it in a cordial manner so we keep it to ourselves,” Rizwan played down the hype. The same camaraderie was witnessed when Kohli shook hands with Babar ahead of the first encounter on August 28 and then most of the Indian players went to injured Shaheen to inquire about his health and welfare.
“That was phenomenal,” remembers Rizwan. “We were superb on the day (after the World Cup win). We had that talk that we have to beat India. It was our ambition and we had that belief that we can do that. We had a solid start through Shaheen’s wickets and then things happened for us. There is always the first time and that first time has given us the belief that we can beat India.”
The Rizwan-Babar pair has transcended limits. The two have now most runs — 2313 in 45 matches — is a world record. They created the record during their world record stand of 203 in the second match in Karachi. Pakistan chased down a target of 200 without losing a wicket which is a new record for the highest T20I chase without losing a wicket!
Besides his belief, Rizwan’s other strong point is his focus. What he thinks and believes, he attains through his commitment and focus.
“I learnt how to focus from Younis (Khan) bhai. “When he was with the team I used to keep talking to Younis bhai about this. Then we have Fawad (Alam) in our Test team. His focus is remarkable. Then when I played for Sussex alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, I learnt alot from him chatting a couple of times.”
Rizwan believes the young team is heading in the right direction
“We have a young team and players know their responsibilities. Babar and I try our level best to motivate them, so we are heading in the right direction,” asserts Rizwan, believing Pakistan has a good chance at next month’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
Legendary boxer Mohammad Ali once said: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
Rizwan follows that. Fellow players call him “Moulvi (prayer leader) and “Pir (spiritual leader).
True to his title, he is Mr BELIEF for this young Pakistan team. That BELIEF will be the key for Rizwan and in turns for Pakistan in this World Cup. Australian pitches are a challenge for batters, especially for those who come from Pakistan.
But Rizwan has, and can, come up successful using the potion of BELIEF.
Originally posted 2022-10-21 15:31:04.