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England v Pakistan

Mohammad Rizwan: The keeper-bat who pushed Sarfaraz Ahmed out the side

mohammad rizwan
by Wisden Staff 4-minute read

Mohammad Rizwan, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, was included in the 20-man squad for their three-Test series in England, and will be competing for a spot in the XI with the returning Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s former captain.

Rizwan has been in the Pakistan set-up a while now, but could never cement a place in the side until recently, given he was competing, for the most part, against the team’s captain. However, since Sarfaraz’s removal as captain, Rizwan is now the man in possession but faces a fight to hold on to his hard-earned spot.

Here’s what we know about the 28-year-old.

First impressions of Mohammad Rizwan

Rizwan made his international debut shortly after the 2015 World Cup, where Pakistan crashed out in the quarter-finals – it was a tournament where Sarfaraz and Umar Akmal both took the gloves at varying points, and the impression was there was an opening for a wicketkeeper.

Rizwan started out as a specialist batsman for Pakistan though, hammering 67 off 58 in an ODI against Bangladesh in 2015, in his first international knock. A T20I debut followed later against the same opposition, and he was retained for the tour of Sri Lanka a few months down the line too. Rizwan impressed as a specialist batsman, scoring a half-century and a quickfire 22-ball 35 as Pakistan won that series 3-2.

Weaknesses exposed

Rizwan couldn’t keep his form going. Against England and New Zealand late in 2015 and early 2016, against better quality attacks than he faced against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Rizwan struggled. He soon lost his place in the lead-up to the 2016 T20 World Cup, with Sarfaraz picked ahead of him as the designated wicketkeeper, and after that tournament, the limited-overs captain.

With Sarfaraz’s place secure, Rizwan’s opportunities dwindled. He failed to grab the chances he did get, too – he made his Test debut in November 2016 against New Zealand in Hamilton, and then played five ODIs early in 2017 against Australia, but failed to do enough to convince the selectors. His international career came to a standstill.

Two years in limbo

After the Australia tour, Rizwan was out of international reckoning. Sarfaraz led Pakistan to the 2017 Champions Trophy even as Rizwan ploughed away in the domestic circuit.

Mohammad Rizwan left out of World Cup

Ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales, the Pakistan management experimented with their combinations, and called up Rizwan at long last for a series in South Africa. He didn’t make a blazing comeback – by the end of the South Africa tour Rizwan had gone 11 consecutive international series without scoring a half-century – but he was persisted with in the ODIs against Australia in the United Arab Emirates, with Sarfaraz and a host of core players rested.

Rizwan grabbed the opportunity zealously, scoring two hundreds against a strong Australia attack to ensure the selectors had a headache. Unfortunately for Rizwan, he was left out of the squad for the marquee event.

New era, new chance for Mohammad Rizwan

After the World Cup, where Pakistan failed to make the semi-finals, there was a wholesale revamp in the Pakistan set-up. Misbah-ul-Haq, the former captain, became coach-cum-selector, and there were plenty of question marks over Sarfaraz’s form as well as his captaincy.

Misbah selected Rizwan in his first squad for a three-match series against Sri Lanka in Karachi, saying: “Sarfaraz and Rizwan’s roles are different. If someone has scored two hundreds at No. 4, you have a chance. You have the added advantage of having two wicketkeepers, fitness-wise he is very good, and he will be in the loop. We are trying to encourage such players and we will try to give them matches whenever we have a chance.”

Tables turned

Since his comeback after the World Cup snub, Rizwan has become a regular, displacing Sarfaraz as first-choice across formats. He has played five Tests – against Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – and five T20Is, the highlight being a second-innings 95 at The Gabba that held off a relentless Australian attack.

Sarfaraz, who was dropped after the Sri Lanka series in October last year, impressed enough in the domestic circuit to earn a place in the squad that travelled to England. However, he remains the second-choice wicketkeeper behind Rizwan in a reversal of fortunes. Rizwan’s tour of England got off to the perfect start; he scored 154 unbeaten runs across both innings in Pakistan’s first intra-squad warm-up fixture. Sarfaraz failed to pass 30 in each of his three innings in the two warm-up games.

Their simultaneous presence in the squad hasn’t caused any jitters. “I am a fan of Sarfaraz and have a lot of love in my heart for him,” Rizwan recently said, according to reports in Pakistan. “There is no added pressure on me due to his presence. He’s my senior and I am learning a lot from him.”

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