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From bench to best; the rise and rise of Mohammad Rizwan

If you’re a cricket fanatic or a cricket analyst or have any form of interest in the gentlemen’s game, most attention surrounding team Pakistan is centered on Babar Azam.

Without a doubt, he is a redefining icon of the modern cricketing generation; serving as an idol to millions of cricket fans across the world. He is matchless and peerless in his ability to obliterate any world-class bowling attack and reduce them to seemingly flustered and overwhelmed school boys.

Despite the mainstream media’s spotlight continuing to shine on Babar through the 2020-21 cricket season, one Pakistani player quite covertly, has polished his performance, astonishing many with his world-class batting figures. His contemporary purple patch has secured him a permanent spot in the national side for all formats, however he might single-handedly be responsible for Sarfraz Ahmed’s eminent exclusion.

He is Mohammed Rizwan; his rich vein of form has conclusively won him plaudits, including being amongst Wisden’s Top 5 cricketers for year 2021. Can he be as good as his current skipper and can he be the answer to Pakistan’s long standing middle-order woes are some questions on everyone’s mind.

His Meteoric Rise

Naturally aggressive, and equipped with a “Dhoni-esque” cool headed power-hitting in addition to his rousing game finishing ability, Mohammad Rizwan is proving himself to be the ‘go-to-person” for the Men in Green. Touring Zimbabwe as I write and recently South Africa, many have fallen victim to Rizwan’s explosiveness at the crease, as well as his overall mettle as a player.

While the novel Coronavirus has brought misery and anguish, combined with its brutal psychological and physical toll on spectators and athletes alike, Rizwan has glimmered like a ray of hope for Pakistanis, his very presence on the pitch has been a source of reckoning for the opposition - sounding the trumpet of defeat.

As of 2020, Rizwan is asserting himself to be “The little master” of T20 cricket. He has topped the charts after tallying 530 runs in just 10 games, bearing a stupendous average of 106.00. His recent snubbing of Zimbabwe’s bowling line-up has enabled him to shoot to number 10 in ICC T20 rankings for batsmen, surpassing the likes of rancorous brutes i.e. Eoin Morgan and Rohit Sharma.

Probably his most unique quality and feature as a batsmen, historically a trait that Pakistani batsmen have failed to achieve, is his flexibility; his apt ability to adapt to any cricketing condition. Be it the flat pitches of the sub-continent, the bouncing tracks of Australia/New Zealand or the green and swinging tracks of England, none have dwindled or dismantled his batting magnificence.

As one veteran has put it, “No matter at which number you send him to bat, he will [always] deliver”.

During Pakistan’s tour of South Africa, he managed to procure an average of 73.50 in the 4 match T20 series. His first mark of T20 genius reared its head on NZ pitches (surfaces Pakistani batsmen particularly struggle on), when he nailed and clobbered the hosts for 89 runs, leading Pakistan to their 4th highest successful run chase ever.

Though most of his prowess lies in the T20 format, being named PCB’s test cricketer for 2020 didn’t come without its basis. Second only to Babar Azam he holds the highest average of 44.38 in the test side. His only test century helped lead Pakistan, alongside Hasan Ali’s historic ten-wicket haul, to an emphatic victory on home-turf against South Africa resulting in a monumental whitewash.

What’s next?

Rizwan’s recent performances have certainly helped him emerge as a world-class player on the international circuit. It is only a matter of time that he and Babar eventually form an unnervingly dynamic threat that would perturb any bowling line-up. The pair, might even end up leaving behind a legacy greater than #MisYou. The duo’s goliath, record breaking opening stand in Johannesburg is a sure sign of hope for Pakistan’s future, surely an indication of good things to come.

                                                                             

This article is written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an O-levels student at Froebel’s International School, Islamabad, Pakistan.