Cricket figures and fans have hailed wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan as a “warrior” after officials revealed he was in hospital with a severe chest infection before taking the field to score a brave half-century in defeat to Australia at the T20 World Cup.
Rizwan top-scored for Pakistan with 67 from 52 balls in Thursday's semi-final in Dubai to help the Green Shirts post 176, but Australia reeled in the runs to reach Sunday's final against New Zealand.
The team doctor said Rizwan was admitted to hospital on Tuesday and spent two nights in intensive care.
“He made an incredible recovery and was deemed fit before the match,” doctor Najeebullah Soomro said.
“We can see his great determination and tenacity that shows his spirit of performing for the country. And we can see how he performed today.”
Opener Rizwan showed no sign of illness, clubbing four sixes and three fours before falling to paceman Mitchell Starc.
Captain Babar Azam, who opened the batting with Rizwan, said the 29-year-old was a “little bit down” before the match.
“But when I asked him about his health he said, 'no, I will play,'” said Babar.
Related: 'You remain our pride': Pakistanis heartbroken, yet full of praise for Green Shirts after semi-final defeat
During his innings, Rizwan became the first player to score 1,000 runs in T20 internationals in a calendar year.
Scoring 281 for the tournament at an average of 70.25, Rizwan is second only to Babar (303) on the World Cup runs list.
After the match, Rizwan tweeted, “Diya jalaye rakhna hai (have to keep the lamp burning).”
“This is a warrior,” said Pakistan batting coach Matthew Hayden, the former Australia Test opener.
“He has been brilliant through [the tournament] and he's got great courage, as has Babar. Fantastic tonight from him.”
Prior to the match, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had not shared the full extent of Rizwan's illness and said only that the wicketkeeper-batsman and his teammate Shoaib Malik had displayed symptoms of cold and had fever but were declared fit after feeling better.
When the details were shared, sportspersons and fans alike took to Twitter to express their admiration and respect for Rizwan — whose name was among the top 10 trends on the social media site.
“This is unreal. No wonder Matthew Hayden called him a warrior. Huge respect for Mohammad Rizwan who spent two nights before the #T20WorldCup semi-final in ICU - then top-scored with 67!” tweeted Cricket Australia.
Former star bowler Shoaib Akhtar also shared a picture of Rizwan during his hospital stay, calling him a hero and expressing “massive respect”.
“Can you imagine this guy played for his country today & gave his best?” he asked.
Sharing a video of the team doctor talking about Rizwan's illness, the Punjab chief minister's focal person for digital media, Azhar Mashwani, simply wrote: “Love you.”