KARACHI: The emergence of a number attacking wicket-keeper/batsmen in Pakistan is not a competition that intimidates national team mainstay Mohammad Rizwan, who, instead, is on a search for more of his breed.
Rizwan’s ability with the gloves has never been looked at with doubt but in the last two and a half years, he has silenced many who used to consider him as a batter who cannot hit the ball hard.
Since being promoted to the top of Pakistan’s T20 batting order in late 2020, Rizwan has consistently scored quick runs for the national side as well as in franchise T20 leagues including the HBL Pakistan Super League.
The Multan Sultans captain, however, is not anymore the only wicket-keeper/batter in the country who can strike sixes and fours at will, which may have been the case two years ago.
In the ongoing eighth season of the PSL, Peshawar Zalmi’s Mohammad Haris and Islamabad United’s Azam Khan have demonstrated their ability to clear the boundary consistently more than once.
Both players have already won their international caps and are in line to replace Rizwan when the time comes. The Pakistan vice captain, however, wishes to see more quality wicket-keepers added to the national squad.
“I’d love to have not one or two but at least five wicket-keepers in the Pakistan squad,” Rizwan told Dawn on Wednesday. “But they need to meet the required standards for it.
“I’m not fazed by the competition; in fact, I’m myself trying to search for more wicket-keepers in Pakistan.”
Rizwan is impressed by Quetta-born youngster Haseebullah Khan in particular. The 18-year-old left-hander was Pakistan’s highest run-getter in last year’s U-19 World Cup and topped the run-scoring charts in the Pakistan Cup – the national 50-over tournament.
He scored a brilliant half-century on his PSL debut for Peshawar Zalmi on Wednesday, showing no fear against Karachi Kings’ bowlers.
“I’ve recently seen Haseebullah, he is performing well and his technique is really good,” said Rizwan. “However, it is important for players [performing in the domestic circuit] to play at the level that is required as a Pakistan player, otherwise the performances go to waste.”
Haris, Azam and Haseebullah are surely knocking on the doors for national selection but Rizwan too isn’t relenting with the bat. He is currently the highest run-scorer in the ongoing PSL season with 358 runs at an average of 82 and has also scored a century.
His performances have boosted Multan Sultans to four wins out of six games so far. All their wins have come at their home ground; the Multan Cricket Stadium. Home advantage, for Rizwan, doesn’t count as a very important factor.
“The way we have played in Multan, we will try to carry that momentum on to other venues as well,” he said. “I don’t think any of the venues particularly favours a specific team but the crowd does make a little impact.”
The Sultans’ previous outing was a 66-run drubbing by Karachi Kings at the National Stadium here, in which they surely looked like a side that missed home.
The contest saw their southpaw-heavy middle-order struggle against off-spin bowling, particularly that of Kings all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who cleaned up dangerman Rilee Rossouw and took Rizwan’s wicket as well.
“We are well aware of the challenges at play having left-handers throughout our middle-order but against Karachi, it was the first time that they really struggled,” argued Rizwan. “I couldn’t really judge the pitch. How Shoaib Malik bowled that day was worth watching. But I’m sure how big these names are they will be able to tackle spinners in the coming matches but it is also important for us to be prepared accordingly.”
Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2023