Regarded as one of Pakistan’s top wicket-keeper batsmen and also a fine fielder, twenty-three year old Mohammad Rizwan has represented Pakistan in twenty-four games where he has scored 454 runs and taken twelve catches. Lacklustre performances against England and New Zealand as well as a below par showing in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League meant that Rizwan was not selected for Pakistan’s squad for the ICC World Twenty20.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Rizwan spoke about his career so far including missing out on selection for Pakistan’s World Twenty20 squad, Lahore Qalandars’ failed PSL campaign, reasons for the absence of top quality batsmen in Pakistan and his future aspirations.
How disappointing is it to not be part of the World Twenty20 squad?
Honestly speaking I am not disappointed that I am not in India as part of the Pakistan World Twenty20 squad. You may think that is a strange answer, but the reason I say this is that I did not deserve to be part of the World Twenty20 squad due to my recent performances. I am not going to sit here and say I should have been in the squad or that I am disappointed because put simply, my performances of late were not good enough. The selectors have a tough job to do and they do it to the best of their ability and pick the players that they feel are in form and performing. I am not part of the squad, so be it, other chances will hopefully present themselves to me in the future and I wish the Pakistan team all the best in India and pray that they bring the World Cup home.
You made an impressive start to you international career, but things have gone downhill of late for you. Why is that?
When you try to make too many changes too soon to the way you play then your game will suffer. I feel that when I was batting higher up the order I was a lot more settled at the crease, but then when I was going in to bat with only a few overs left and having to hit out from the start I struggled. This is not an excuse, it’s my fault, nobody else is to blame. It’s my mistake and I am the only one who can put this right. I guess I was rushing, trying too many things at once and too quickly and as a result my batting suffered. I’m working on these issues and also some technical aspects of my batting that need to be addressed.
You mention technical changes, can you elaborate on what technical changes you feel need to be made to your batting?
There is an issue with my footwork and shuffling across the crease when I am about to hit the ball. What has happened is that I have got into the habit of shuffling across too far and then I am not stable or balanced when hitting the ball. As a result of this I am also finding that my leg-side shots are not being timed as well as they should be. I’m working on this and when the necessary changes have been made then I feel that I will be a lot more stable at the crease and better balanced.
You’ve already batted in a number of positions in the batting order for Pakistan, but where do you feel is your best position?
This is a question that really doesn’t matter to me. Send me as an opener, three, four, five, eight or even number eleven, I don’t care. I will bat in any position the team, captain or the coach wants me to. I’ve batted in all positions throughout my career and I will do whatever the team needs. I have no God-given right to bat in a particular position.
It seems you have a weakness against top quality spin-bowling, Is that a fair observation?
Growing up in Peshawar if you cannot play spin bowling then you get nowhere. Perhaps someone has seen something that has made them think that I am weak against spin, but throughout my career I have played spin quite well. I’m someone who prefers to play spinners off the pitch rather than from the hand. I think all batsmen struggle against some spinners and at times I have found it difficult to differentiate between the googly and the leg-spinner, but I don’t think it’s a major problem and it’s not something that can be classed as a weakness.
Pakistan hasn’t produced too many great fielders over the years, but you are in that top bracket. Is it something that comes natural to you?
Fielding is something that I enjoy and to be a good fielder you have to enjoy doing it. When I was playing club cricket in Peshawar my team had a very good wicket-keeper so in order for me to get into the team I had to play as an outfielder. I think you have to have the ability to be versatile rather than be one-dimensional. I can keep wicket, bat, play as an outfielder, I also bowl leg-spin, off-spin and I can bowl fast. I try it all ! Going back to your question, I love fielding and if you love fielding then you will enjoy it and be useful at it. I recall when I was unknown in domestic cricket I took a catch and several selectors and coaches including Basit Ali who were watching the match congratulated me on my fielding. I feel that if you put in the hard work in any facet of cricket you will get your rewards.
Sometimes you are played as a wicket-keeper/batsman, the next match you play as a batsman. Is that not unsettling for you?
Wicket-keeping is a specialist position and a very difficult skill. But I keep my thinking and planning simple. I don’t try to over-complicate what is asked of me. If I’m picked as a wicket-keeper batsman then I will give my all with the gloves and bat and if the captain and coach feel that I should be played as a batsman only then I will give my all in the field. If you over-think about your role then you can get confused and your performances suffer. If I am being asked to represent my country then I would carry the drinks all day, every day in every match for Pakistan if that’s what was needed.
As well as batting, bowling spin, keeping wicket and fast bowling, you also have done some umpiring occasionally as twelfth man haven’t you?
Oh yes, that was just a bit of fun against England. It was just a bit of fun with the umpires when a decision was to be overturned. I was just teasing the umpire and he took it in good spirit, but I don’t think some of the England players saw the funny side. I was just being cheeky but one or two of the England players said some words to me that I didn’t understand but I sort of knew that they weren’t compliments.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) turned out to be a disaster for your team Lahore Qalandars. What do you feel went wrong?
Personally I never had a great tournament with only one good score which was fifty against Islamabad. I thought my wicket-keeping was good but yes it was a disappointing tournament for Lahore. Our strength was our batting and we were hampered in our bowling resources when we lost the services of Mustafizur Rahman and Yasir Shah ahead of the tournament. They were going to be our main two bowlers and it was always going to be tough without them. I think we lacked that match-winning bowler, the sort of bowler who could single-handedly win a match for us.
Why is Pakistan not producing world-class batsmen?
I believe it is down to the type of wickets that are being prepared in first-class cricket. They are either green tops in some parts of the country or batting wickets in other parts of the country. I could be wrong but I feel that the standard of wickets in first-class cricket needs to be improved. You get matches where teams are skittled for less than 200 in all four innings or you get the complete opposite where teams can bat very easily and there is nothing in it for the bowlers. Our batsmen have forgotten the art of playing long innings. We need to get into the habit of scoring big hundreds and double-hundreds and that is virtually impossible with under-prepared wickets being so common. We need to start preparing wickets around the country that allow good cricket and allow for an even battle between bat and ball and that is currently not happening.
Peshawar is producing a lot of wonderful cricketers. Why is that, is it something in the local water?
It was interesting listening to Waqar Younis recently when he said that he wanted the Pakistan team to fight and battle as hard as the Peshawar teams do. The cricketers of Peshawar respect the opposition but they don’t fear them. In fact their policy is to target the best players of the opposition. If you are successful against the opposition’s best players then the other players will worry and could succumb to the pressure. So this is the thinking of the Peshawar players and their mindset is one that says never-say-die. They never give up and the team ethic and backing is just fantastic.
Let me also give you an example about the passion of cricket in Peshawar. At the moment there have been some practice matches and a training camp held for my local club in Peshawar. The number of people who have turned up just to play in the practice matches and to take part in the training camp is just incredible. This is the same situation in all of the clubs in Peshawar. The passion for cricket is so strong and the desire to play cricket at the local, domestic and international level is amazing. I think that Peshawar with the right levels of support can produce many international players for Pakistan.
What next for you and your quest to be a regular for Pakistan?
There’s a lot of cricket coming up for Pakistan, both the senior and ‘A’ team. I’m out of the picture at the moment but as I said before in this interview, that is my own fault. I need to work hard, I am ready to work hard and I want to get back in the Pakistan teams and ensure that I perform well and consistently. I believe in my ability. I have a lot of self-belief and I believe that I can succeed in international cricket. However at the end of the day whatever is in my fate, I will get.
Credit: Exclusive interview from www.PakPassion.net