Rizwan happy with more competition for keeper spot

KARACHI: The emergence of attacking wicketkeeper/batsmen in Pakistan is not a challenge that daunts national team star Mohammad Rizwan, who is instead looking for more of his generation.

Rizwan’s ability with the glove was never in doubt but over the last two and a half years he has silenced many who considered him a batsman who could not hit the ball hard.

Since being promoted to the top of Pakistan’s T20 batting order at the end of 2020, Rizwan has consistently scored runs for the national team as well as franchise T20 leagues including the HBL Pakistan Super League.

However, the Multan Sultans captain is no longer the only wicketkeeper/batsman in the country who can hit sixes and fours at will, which was perhaps the case two years ago.

In the ongoing eighth season of PSL, Mohammad Haris of Peshawar Zalmi and Azam Khan of Islamabad United have shown the ability to clear the boundary more than once in a row.

Both players have already won their international caps and are in line to replace Rizwan when the time comes. The Pakistan vice-captain, however, wants to add more quality wicketkeepers to the national team.

“I would like to have at least five wicket-keepers in the Pakistan squad, not one or two,” Rizwan said while talking to Dawn on Wednesday.

“I am not worried about the competition; in fact I myself am trying to find more wicketkeepers in Pakistan.

Rizwan is particularly impressed by Haseebullah Khan, a young man born in Quetta. The 18-year-old left-hander was Pakistan’s highest run-scorer 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 have seen Haseebullah recently, he is performing well and his technique is really good,” Rizwan said. “However, it is important for the players to play at the level that is required as a Pakistani player, otherwise the performance will be wasted.”

Haris, Azam and Haseebullah are certainly knocking on the doors of national selection but Rizwan is also not stopping from batting. 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 led Multan Sultans to victory in four out of six matches so far. All their wins have come at their home ground. Multan Cricket Stadium. Domestic advantage, for Rizwan, does not count as a very important factor.

He said that the way we have played in Multan, we will try to take this momentum to other places as well. “I don’t think any place particularly favors any particular team but the crowd does have a bit of an effect.”

Sultans’ previous outing was a 66-run defeat by Karachi Kings here at the National Stadium, in which they certainly looked like a side who were outclassed at home.

The match saw a tough middle-order struggle against off-spin bowling, especially by Kings all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who cleaned up the dangerous Riley Russo and also claimed the wicket of Rizwan.

“We are well aware of the challenges the left-hander faces throughout our middle order but against Karachi, it was the first time he really struggled,” argued Rizwan. “I couldn’t really judge the pitch. It was worth watching how Shoaib Malik bowled that day. But I’m sure with how big these names are, they will be able to deal with the spinners in the coming matches. It is also important to be prepared accordingly.

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