Rizwan: Pakistani M. BELIEF
Mohammad Rizwan’s power is his belief. He is Pakistan’s lifeblood as he was the team’s most prolific goalscorer in the shortest format. Pakistan will be hoping the small but very resolute batsman and wicketkeeper will maintain his stunning form at the World Cup in Australia.
With his run scoring in nearly every match, Rizwan was crowned the ICC’s number one batsman in the Twenty20 Internationals, replacing co-opener and skipper Babar Azam.
Belief is key for Rizwan. It is his forte. It feeds off of his strong belief in religion, in the Almighty, and in his hard work and that of his fellow players.
“I knew the game was in our hands,” Rizwan said. “I wanted to finish the game but I came out of Hardik (Panday) slower but I think we have Asif (Ali), Khushdil (Shah), Iftikhar (Ahmed) and Shadab (Khan) so the game was in control. It would have been nice to finish the game, but such things are part and parcel of the game.
“This is our second victory against India in less than a year,” said Rizwan. “We are gradually progressing towards our goal – to be the best team in the world. All the players are engaged under a good skipper and we are very united. Our conviction is our strength.
belief in abundance
“I firmly believe that Allah Almighty helps those who put their shoulder in the wheel and believe in Almighty and believe in their abilities. We hadn’t 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 Asian Cup. Without a doubt, the goal is to win the trophy, but all that is in our hands is to work hard, to give our best on the pitch and the results come with that effort.
With Babar Azam in a low scoring rut, only scoring 68 in the Asian Cup, Rizwan atoned for his co-opener and skipper’s failures. With a tally of 281 at an average of 56.20 and a strike rate of 117.57, he was the tournament’s best pitcher. Then he was perched atop the charts again when England came to Pakistan after a 17-year gap, scoring 315 in six of the seven matches he played. His performances in Babar’s company were so impactful that when the duo failed to score, Pakistan escaped.
Even in the New Zealand tri-series, Rizwan’s midas touch didn’t go. Although he was pushed to second by Devon Conway’s 233, his 201 total at an improved strike rate of 122.56 was enough to help Pakistan win the three-series title.
“He is our Mr Belief,” Babar said during the Asian Cup. “During the break in the heats, he was the one who convinced us that we will pursue the goal of 182 points. He’s a different character. His belief in the Almighty, in his abilities and in the abilities of the players is unparalleled. He was in intensive care before the semi-final (Twenty20 World Cup last year) and came out of it and played the match. ”
As the world sings his praises, legendary former Pakistani beatmaker Wasim Akram is in love with his conviction and hard work. Babar admires Rizwan’s contribution to the team.
“Rizwan is exceptional in his belief and work ethic,” Wasim told KT. “He banged into the ground and was shaken off, but after the treatment he continued to keep the wickets and then batted for 17 overs. If there had been a weak-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 wicket keeper is the engine room of any team as he leads the players behind the stumps. Rizwan has been that cog in the goalkeeping and hitting roles.
Since replacing the much-softened former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Rizwan has been phenomenal.
He made the wicket-keeper batsman’s place his own, thriving in all three formats. He was the leading Twenty20 internationals run-getter in 2021 with 1,326 runs – the only hitter to score more than 1,000 runs in a year and 2,036 – the most by any batsman in a 12-month period. Also this year, Rizwan topped the leaderboard with 821 runs in 18 T20I – 1642 in 37 T20 matches, which is the most this year.
“The Almighty has been very kind,” said a grateful Rizwan. “I continue to believe in my abilities and in my team. This is my strong point. If you have faith, 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 battle-scarred veterans James Anderson or Stuart Broad couldn’t scare him, neither Kagiso Rabada nor Anrich Nortje…. in fact, he didn’t know some of the names.
Who cares when there is BELIEF!
Rizwan has this kind of belief. Ignorance is bliss for him. It’s usual for him. He sticks to the crease with conviction, plays his shots with everything he knows about the stick, and the just reward are runs.
“Why bother with something you can’t control,” he argues. “No matter the opponent, no matter the bowler, I have to believe in my abilities. I have that confidence to do well because I’ve done my hard work.”
Races galore for this simple and passionate guy from Peshawar. In fact, in the past year, Rizwan has even eclipsed Pakistan’s top batsman, Babar, even in the longer format, where he was 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 avoided his prying eyes and practiced when the people in his neighborhood were sleeping. His dusk-to-dawn practices came to fruition, and his father relented.
The father was impressed by Rizwan’s belief
Rizwan 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 was doing well. But Rizwan had been knocking on the door continuously since 2018.
“I knew my time would come,” joked Rizwan. “I was working out of my skin in an effort 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. Trust in Sarfaraz was lost and Rizwan became the number one choice. First came the tests, in November 2019. Exactly on the date four years after playing his only test in Hamilton. It was a forgettable, returned without scoring, on a dumb hook shot from Neil Wagner, the usual short pitcher. As Pakistan valiantly failed to save the test – lost by 138 points – Rizwan found themselves locked in 13 steps.
At Australia’s stronghold, the Gabba in Brisbane, Rizwan looked like a different drummer. He wasn’t in awe, like he was in Hamilton four years ago, and his 37 included seven borders, proving he was in control at all times. He followed that up with a 94 bout after beating Pakistan five times for just 95, battling to avoid an innings loss. Rizwan added 132 with Babar. Babar continued to complete his hundred, but Rizwan cruelly failed.
“It was the turning point in my career,” recalls Rizwan. “Then I was given a chance to open the innings and I had the belief that I will do my best and I did that for my team.”
Since his 89 pace out in Pakistan’s consolation win over New Zealand two years ago, Rizwan has been the mainstay of the team in the shortest format. Since that Napier blow, Rizwan has shattered one hundred and all of his other five half centuries. He finished man of the series in the T20I series against South Africa at home and second best on the return tour. When Pakistan won the T20Is in Zimbabwe, the main contributions came from Rizwan, 82 not out and 91 not out. Appropriately, he won the laurels man of the series. Another accolade of being among Wisden’s ‘five cricketers of the year’ was on the way.
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 trials. Shaheen Shah Afridi cheated India’s top order with the wickets of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma then came back to account for Virat Kohli. Amazingly, Pakistan took a ten wicket win – India’s first ten wicket loss in a T20I – 13 balls to spare. Rizwan hit a brilliant 79 not out and Babar an undefeated 68.
The scenes after the game were a pleasant surprise for everyone. Indian maestro Virat Kholi shares a moment with Babar and Rizwan – the details of which he does not want to share.
“When we meet, we do so in a cordial manner, so we keep it to ourselves,” Rizwan played down the hype. The same camaraderie was seen when Kohli shook hands with Babar ahead of the first meeting on August 28 and then most of the Indian players visited the injured Shaheen to inquire about his health and wellbeing.
“It was phenomenal,” recalls Rizwan. “We were superb that day (after the World Cup victory). We had this conversation that we have to beat India. It was our ambition and we were convinced that we could do it. We had a good start thanks to Shaheen’s wickets and then things came together for us. There is always the first time and that first time made us believe that we can beat India.
The Rizwan-Babar pair has exceeded the limits. The two now have the most runs – 2,313 in 45 games – is a world record. They created the record during their world record 203 in the second game in Karachi. Pakistan chased 200 without losing a wicket, which is a new record for highest T20I chase without losing a wicket!
Besides his conviction, Rizwan’s other strong point is his concentration. What he thinks and believes he achieves through commitment and focus.
“I learned to concentrate thanks to Younis (Khan) bhai. “When he was with the team, I kept telling Younis bhai about it. Then we have Fawad (Alam) in our test squad. His focus is remarkable. Then when I played for Sussex alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, I learned a lot from him by chatting many times.
Rizwan thinks the young team is heading in the right direction
“We have a young team and the players know their responsibilities. Babar and I are doing our best to motivate them, so we are going in the right direction,” Rizwan said, believing Pakistan have a good chance of taking part in the Twenty20 World Cup next month in Australia.
Legendary boxer Mohammad Ali once said, “It is the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things start to happen.
Rizwan follows this. The other players call him ‘Moulvi (prayer leader) and ‘Pir (spiritual leader).
True to his title, he is Mr BELIEF for this young Pakistani team. This BELIEF will be key for Rizwan and in turn for Pakistan in this World Cup. Australian pitches are a challenge for hitters, especially those from Pakistan.
But Rizwan succeeded and can succeed using the BELIEF potion.