Pakistan‘s wicketkeeper-batsman, Mohammad Rizwan, has come forward to defend the team management’s decision to split the opening partnership with Babar Azam in T20 Internationals (T20Is). Despite being one of the most prolific opening pairs in T20I history with 2,400 runs, Rizwan and Azam have faced criticism for their relatively low scoring rates compared to other T20I openers.
During the recent T20I series against New Zealand, Pakistan experimented with young batsman Saim Ayub as Rizwan’s opening partner, while Azam moved down to No. 3 in the batting order. This move was aimed at trying out different opening combinations ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.
Speaking to Cricbuzz during the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Rizwan explained the team management’s rationale behind the decision: “This is not the fact and what our management said, probably people have understood it in another way. Our management and captain said that we are trying out different things for the World Cup and for that we want to see what can be our best XI. Like say we can have left-right combination at the top and Saim Ayub is left-hander. There is Fakhar Zaman also. So for the World Cup we were experimenting with left-right combination. I don’t think it is a wrong decision and if I am destined to [open] in that case I will do it in future and I am not angry with the thinking process of the management and neither is Babar Azam. Look they said, we are going to West Indies and there will be spin and every country is trying for left-right combination and so our management is also giving that a thought.”
Rizwan emphasized that neither he nor Babar Azam was angry with the decision, and they understood the thinking process behind it. He reiterated that if he is destined to open the innings in the future, he will do so without any issues. Rizwan also pointed out that with the upcoming series in West Indies, where spin is expected to play a significant role, the management’s focus on left-right batting combinations is in line with the strategies adopted by other teams.
Despite the move benefiting Azam, who rediscovered his form and scored three half-centuries in the series against New Zealand, the Rizwan-Ayub partnership failed to make a significant impact. Their highest partnership in the first four games was only 33 runs, prompting a change in the opening combination for the final match.
In conclusion, Mohammad Rizwan‘s comments provide insights into Pakistan’s strategic approach towards team selection and batting combinations in T20Is, as they prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup.