20 year old Peshawar born Mohammad Rizwan is a highly rated wicketkeeper batsman who was on the list of standby players for the recently concluded Test series in South Africa. He made his first class debut at the age of 16 in 2008, but has really caught the eye of the selectors this season after a string of impressive performances with the bat and gloves for both Sui Gas and Peshawar.
Speaking with PakPassion.net Rizwan spoke of how he got into cricket, how he played cricket behind the backs of his family, how he has had to be patient in terms of selection in domestic cricket, and his hopes for the future.
Full name : Mohammad Rizwan
Born : June 1, 1992, Peshawar, North-West Frontier Province
Current age : 20 years 283 days
Major teams : Pakistan Under-19s, Peshawar, Sui Gas
Batting style : Right-hand bat
Fielding position : Wicketkeeper
Getting into Cricket
I started playing cricket at a very early age with school friends and relatives. I mainly played cricket behind my parents' back as they were very strict and didnít really approve of me playing cricket. In Peshawar, generally the priority is studying at school and also religious studies and cricket isnít really approved of as a profession, as so few make it to the professional level.
I would play cricket with friends whenever I got the opportunity to; at the local parks, in the streets, wherever we could and whenever we could but the difficulty was that we had to make sure we didnít get seen by our families.
After playing in the parks, streets, and for my local school, I went for trials for the Peshawar College team. I wasnít sure that I would be picked for the team. I went along with some friends to see what it would be like and really just to enjoy ourselves and compare ourselves against the other boys attending the trials. The trials went very well and the coaches at the college were impressed with me and picked me for their first team.
I was delighted but that meant having to reveal my secret to my family that I had been playing cricket all this time. Anyway I bit the bullet and told my parents that I had been playing cricket and had been picked for the Peshawar College team. I wasnít sure what their reaction would be. It turned out that at first they didnít believe me and kept on asking me if I was telling the truth, but then when they digested what I had told them, they were very supportive and told me to do my best whenever I played.
Peshawar Under 19s
I continued playing college cricket and club cricket in Peshawar. By now, I was a lot more confident in my ability especially now that I didnít have to hide the fact that I was spending a lot of time playing cricket. I did well with the college team and in club cricket and I caught the eye of the District coaches who picked me for the District Under 19 team. I made several hundreds for the District team and caught the attention of the Peshawar coaches who picked me for the Peshawar Under 19s team.
I was also lucky enough to be amongst the highest run scorers in Pakistanís Under 19 competition in my first season of regional Under 19 cricket. I finished as the second highest run scorer in my debut season in Under 19 cricket.
Pakistan Under 19s
After doing well in Under 19 cricket for Peshawar, I was called up for Pakistanís Under 19s against the touring Bangladesh Under 19 team in 2008, but that did not go too well. It was the first time that I had played cricket with a white ball and I found it very difficult as I had been used to playing with a red ball. But looking back now, it was all part of the learning curve for me. It didnít go too well but I learnt a lot from the experience of playing with a white ball.
A lot of people ask me how I got into wicket keeping as most young Pakistani cricketers want to be fast bowlers, batsmen or spinners. I was playing as a batsman in my early days, but then in District cricket I found myself in and out of the first team, picked on some occasions, batting down the order at times. I made up my mind then that I needed to add another dimension to my cricket, so started to keep wicket.
Quite a few people in Peshawar told me not to keep wicket, as it was a very specialised and a difficult facet of the game and close friends and coaches tried to deter me from wicket keeping, but I was determined to make it work. I was stubborn and wanted to succeed as a wicketkeeper/batsman. Many people came up to me and told me that I should just focus on my batting and not keep wicket but that just made me even more determined to succeed as a wicket keeper/batsman.
Even at Under 19 level and for a lot of the time in District cricket I was played as a specialist batsman and was wicket keeping intermittently, but gradually the more chances I got to keep wicket, the better I became and more confident with the gloves.
It wasnít until that I signed for Sui Gas this season that I have been wicket keeping on a regular basis. They signed me as a specialist wicket keeper/batsman rather than just as a batsman.
I think wicket keeping is the most difficult aspect of playing cricket. You cannot afford to make a single mistake. One mistake can cost your team so you have to concentrate fully for every single delivery that your team bowls. Also your fitness levels have to be very high. If you are not in top shape then you will find wicket keeping a difficult proposition.
First Class Cricket
Sui Gas signed me this season after they spotted me playing in a friendly match against them. My fielding caught their eye and then their scouts watched me play for Peshawar region on a couple of occasions. I made a quickfire 40 and then 15 from 8 balls at the end of the innings and they asked me to sign for them ahead of the ongoing domestic season. I asked them to give me a couple of months to think about it as I wasnít sure whether it was in my best interests to sign for a departmental team at this stage of my career, but I made the step and I hope itís the right one.
When your heart is set on something then you should not hold back. When I signed for Sui Gas, I said to myself that even if these guys ask me to bowl I am going to give it my best shot.
Iíve never really bothered with where I am asked to bat. Whether itís number 1 or 11 and believe me I have batted in all those positions, I just do my best. Recently in the 50 over competition I have been asked to bat at number three by Peshawar, but previously they wanted me to bat at number seven. Thatís fine Iíll just do my best whatever is asked of me.
I only have one cricketing hero and that is Adam Gilchrist. What can I say that hasnít already been said about him. What a fantastic cricketer and role model for all wicket keeper/batsmen around the world.
You can wish and for everything, but Iíve learnt that nothing comes easy in life. In professional sport, you have to work hard to achieve success. Iím not someone who has had things easy and I wouldnít want it any other way. I can from the bottom of my heart say that every success has been down to my coaches, mentors and my hard work, rather than any sort of favouritism.
It was fantastic to be named in the back up players for the Test squad in South Africa and that was a real boost for me and has really made me realise how far I have come in such a short space of time. I want to play for Pakistan, I have high hopes of playing for Pakistan, but it will only happen if I continue to work hard and continue to improve. Letís see what the future holds for me.