By Anwar Shah
PESHAWAR, 21 August: Muhammad Rizwan, the 23-year-old cricketer from Peshawar, is fast emerging as a dependable wicketkeeper batsman for the national cricket team.
After brilliant performances in the first-class cricket, he has won the confidence of national selectors and represented Pakistan in eight one-day and four T-20 matches so far. In an exclusive interview, TNN has put light on the cricketing life, struggles and views of Muhammad Rizwan about the game.
Introduction: I belong to Peshawar and play for Peshawar Panthers and Sui Northern teams. Now due to the prayers of relatives and well-wishers I am also part of the national cricket team. I loved cricket from my childhood when we used to play the game on tape ball. One day I visited the Gymkhana to get to know about the hard ball cricket. I was so attracted that I immediately got enrolled in the Gymkhana. I also got admission in Islamia College Peshawar on sports quota. At the college, I met captain of Shama team, Hammadul Hassan who invited me to join club cricket. After being part of district and regional Under-19 cricket teams, I was finally selected for the national Under-19 team. Every child thinks about his future and plans to become successful. Almighty Allah also put that passion for success in my mind from my childhood.
Secret to success: The best way to success is to think positively and working hard on translating that positive thinking into practice. Once a friend at Saddar Academy, Saleh told me that I am the only cricketer in Peshawar who plays both spin and fast bowlers with best technique. That compliments strengthened my thinking and my performance improved subsequently. It achieved successes with the help of self-confidence. We need to back ourselves when we get double minded.
Education: Education is important for success in cricket and any other field. I had mentioned at an earlier interaction with the media that it is very difficult to continue studies along with cricket. Sometimes, one had to choose from the exam or an important match or series. I had to skip my examination four times for cricket. Even at Islamia College, I attended very few classes as I was playing lots of cricket. I played key role in winning four cricket tournaments for Islamia College and the administration was very lenient in dealing with me.
Future of Pakistan team: The performance of Pakistan team has improved a lot after the unforgettable tour of Bangladesh. Now many new guys have joined the team and they have jelled well with the senior players to improve batting, bowling and fielding of the team. The team management is also working on a new strategy to make Pakistan invincible in future. Our team is improving with each passing day. I will also try my best to give good performance. The respect I have got today is only because of Pakistan cricket team and my country. I will never hesitate to even sacrifice my life for the Pakistan cricket team.
Selection in national team: My name was under consideration for selection of the team for the ICC World Cup. I also had scored two centuries and a fifty in Pentangular Cup ahead of the World Cup. My name was being considered for opening batsmen for the mega event but I was not included in the team. However, when I was on the crease in a match against Quetta in Faisalabad, an announcement was made that my name was included in the national team. It was a very big occasion for me. I can’t find words to explain my feelings of happiness at that time.
Family’s support: Very few people in Peshawar support their children for sports activities as usually they wish to educate their children or fit them into some business. My father was not in favour of my cricket, but my grandfather, who was head of the family, supported me a lot. When I was selected in Islamia College team, my grandfather told me that you have got what you wanted. However, I told him that my goals are higher. My father also started supporting me when I was selected in the Under-19 team as he sensed at that time that I will represent my country one day.
Cricket’s future in FATA: I have seen some impressive players in FATA team. Sarwar is a very good all-rounder. I have also represented FATA in different tournaments in Karachi. Asif, Rehan and Irfan have very good future prospects. There are about 18-19 cricketers from FATA who are playing very well. There is lots of talent in FATA and the Pakistan Cricket Board is also giving special importance to the tribal areas. FATA cricketers are physically and mentally fit. This talent needs to be polished.
Impact of sports activities on youth: As you see that about a thousand players are attending the cricket academy here. It is quite obvious that these young men may have indulged in some negative activities if they were not here. The youth also get opportunity to maintain their physical fitness through different exercises here. Cricket and other sports activities can bring peace to any region.
Time for family: I have spent only three months of one and a half years married life at home. It is very important to attend all practice sessions while playing at the national level. We had to even set aside our education for cricket. It is very difficult in such circumstances to give proper time to family and friends. We attend two training sessions daily after which we can’t give time to our friends.
Message for aspiring cricketers: I will like to advise the emerging cricketers not to rely on anyone. Always treat the coach as a coach and don’t expect him to get place for you in a team. One should always back his capabilities and seek blessings of Almighty Allah. No one can get a place in the national team by batting for five-six minutes. One has to earn his place and it comes with hard work and dedication. One should not lose heart if he faces difficulties in his cricketing career. I worked so hard in cricket that Almighty Allah made it my source of income.
Rizwan’sBatting and fielding averages
— Translation by Aamir Khan