June 01, 1992, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Right hand bat
For several years, it appeared Mohammad Rizwan's international career would only happen in a parallel universe, racking up domestic runs even as he struggled to get a game in the national side. But for someone who played an international for the first time in two years in January 2019, Mohammad Rizwan was spoken of remarkably frequently. Most often, he was used as a stick to threaten current first-choice Pakistan wicketkeeper and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, but the Peshawar native had qualities of his own that suggested he might have been unfortunate not to play for Pakistan more often.
A limited batsman but a technically sound keeper when he first rose through the ranks, Rizwan made his international debut shortly after the 2015 World Cup when the slot behind the stumps was still up for grabs. He made a bright start against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, averaging nearly 60 with the bat in his first eight innings, but against more challenging opposition, his deficiencies were quickly exposed. A lengthy lean patch followed, and once he lost his place to Sarfaraz for the World T20 in 2016, there was little doubt who Pakistan's No. 1 wicketkeeper was. After the debacle at the World T20, Sarfaraz was appointed captain of the limited-overs sides, and consequently Rizwan's game time diminished further, coming to a complete halt until Sarfaraz sat out the last five games on the tour to South Africa in January 2019 serving a ban.
On the domestic circuit, Rizwan has been a prolific run-accumulator, averaging a shade under 50 in List A cricket and 41 at first-class level. He doesn't, however, seem to have the shots necessary to make him a valuable asset in T20Is, but with that being Sarfaraz's strongest suit, both as a batsman and captain, it would have been hard to dislodge him in the format at any rate.
Having made his debut over a decade ago on Pakistan's domestic circuit, Rizwan has been an ever-present participant in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, plying his trade with the hugely successful SNGPL side, helping his side to three titles in the last four years. For that, the reward of a solitary Test cap in 2016 feels somewhat inadequate.
He played for Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League, serving as back-up to Chadwick Walton for a couple of seasons, but once Sarfaraz Ahmed was dropped from the side, Rizwan's career trajectory skyrocketed.
A 95 in Brisbane in his first Test since being called up got him off to a good start, but it was Pakistan's tour to England where he truly cemented his spot as Pakistan's first choice wicketkeeper. A pair of half-centuries in Southampton combined with a near-perfect series behind the stumps demonstrated to Pakistan they have found a long-term wicketkeeping solution, and Rizwan found himself appointed vice-captain of the Test side, and fast-tracked into the white ball team.
T20s and Rizwan didn't seem naturally suited to each other, but 2021 has seen him make a mockery of those predictions with a record-breaking year. He began by smashing an unbeaten 104 against South Africa, followed up by seven further half-centuries that saw him amass the most T20I runs in a single year by any player. For good measure, he was also the second highest runscorer at the 2021 PSL - behind only his Pakistan opening partner Babar Azam - and led Multan Sultans to the PSL title.
His stability and consistency at the top of the order converted what tended to be a Pakistan weakness into a Pakistan strength. Rizwan now appears to be in the prime of his career, and one of Pakistan's most prized assets heading into the 2021 World T20.
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