Should Rizwan Continue as Opener in T20Is Despite Low Strike Rate?
Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan’s tenacious wicket-keeper hitter, has been one of the most consistent performances in T20 cricket over the last year. Rizwan’s exploits at the top of the order have contributed to Pakistan’s historic victory, and as a result of those match-winning performances, he has risen to the top of the ICC T20I batter rankings.
Despite his incredible consistency, Rizwan’s inability to use the powerplay has been a concerning indicator for Pakistan, and his poor starts have cost the team dearly, as shown in last night’s 2022 Asia Cup final. While Rizwan did manage to make another half-century, his poor strike rate ultimately led to Pakistan’s demise as they arrived too late to face the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Rizwan’s slow starts, combined with Babar Azam’s poor form, put a lot of strain on Pakistan’s already weak middle-order, resulting in numerous batting collapses. Pakistan’s poor batting performance in the final was not an outlier; they struggled throughout the tournament, with their lone decent batting effort coming in the semifinals. In the Super 4s, they will face Hong Kong and India.
The 30-year-old has a lifetime T20I strike rate of 127.07, which is far from enough for the modern game. There is no dispute about his ability to bat long and consistently, but shifting gears at the correct time is an area where he can develop.
Rizwan’s sluggish starts plagued the team at the recently finished 2022 Asia Cup. Rizwan scored 43 runs off 42 balls with a strike rate of 102.38 as Pakistan was bowled out for 147 in the first match against India. Rizwan made a half-century with a strike rate of 136.48 in Pakistan’s next encounter against Hong Kong, helping the team reach its greatest total. 193/2 in the tournament
Pakistan played India again, this time in the Super 4s stage, when Rizwan hit with a strike rate of 139.21, assisting Pakistan in chasing down a target of 182. Rizwan has been unable to accelerate since that game, with strike rates of 76.92, 100.00, and 112.24 in three games. Pakistan lost two of the three matches and would have lost to Afghanistan as well if it hadn’t been for Naseem Shah’s heroics with the bat.
Stick With Rizwan as an Opener
The dilemma is whether Rizwan should continue as an opener for the national T20I team or be replaced by a more attacking option. Pakistan, in my opinion, should remain with Rizwan as an opener because his sluggish start is not entirely his fault.
A few elements must be taken into account. To begin with, Pakistan’s weak middle-order and early wicket losses do not help Rizwan’s cause, as he retreats into his shell and focuses on preventing wickets rather than improving the run rate. Second, the national team management’s plan should be revised as well, as they aim to conserve wickets in order to hit big at the end rather than utilising the powerplay and scoring massively right away.
Nevertheless, Rizwan has proven to be a brilliant opener in T20I cricket, and changing a couple of the factors mentioned above will help him improve even more.
What are your thoughts? Should Rizwan continue to open in Twenty20 Internationals? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!