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Rizwan: ‘My T20 career looked finished to me’ before 89 against New Zealand

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Mohammad Rizwan, who won the ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Year award for 2021, has revealed how he feared he might have been about to play his last 20-over match for Pakistan after a string of poor performances.

Rizwan managed to turn around an indifferent start to his T20I career, scoring 1,326 runs in 29 matches at an average of 73.66 in the format in 2021, the most anyone has ever made in a calendar year in the shortest format, 387 runs more than second-placed Babar Azam. However, the Pakistan player, who had a high score of 33* in his first 17 T20Is, says that his career “looked finished” before his knock of 89 in the third T20I against New Zealand in December 2020.

Pushed to open the innings for the first time in his T20I career during the series in New Zealand, Rizwan did not have the greatest start, scoring 17 at run-a-ball and a 20-ball 22 in the first two matches, which further increased the pressure on the wicketkeeper. Speaking to The Cricket Monthly, Rizwan looks back and says that the third T20I could have been the end of the road for him in the format.

“My T20 career looked finished to me at the time. Before 2021 I was mostly on the bench, I didn’t get that many opportunities and when I did, it was at No. 6 or 7. Then the New Zealand series happened, the first match didn’t go that well and neither did the second one. I remember speaking to Iftikhar [Ahmed] before the third game and I said to him, ‘This is the last T20 match of my career.’ I haven’t said this in any interview before, but I really did [think it might be the end].”

The 29-year-old managed to bounce back in the last match of the series, with a scintillating knock that set the tone for Pakistan’s successful run chase of 174. Rizwan smashed ten fours and three sixes in his knock of 89 off 59 balls and took on the responsibility in the absence of Babar Azam. He was dismissed in the last over of the match, but not before ensuring Pakistan were well within reach of the target. His innings prevented New Zealand from whitewashing the series and also helped him win the Player of the Match award.

Rizwan also revealed how he decided to take on Trent Boult in the final T20I. “I went in thinking, ‘If I get a ball, I have to capitalise, I can’t leave it.; I hit Boult for fours off the first two balls he bowled [Rizwan hit Boult for a two and a four off the first and fifth balls of the first over], one over point, and I was intent on being positive right throughout, to not fear.”

The cricketer has not looked back since then, forming a successful opening pair with Babar, and scoring 13 fifties and one hundred in his last 26 innings. His career average, which was 17.23 before the third T20I against the Kiwis has leapfrogged to 51.21.

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