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Should Rizwan Continue as Opener in T20Is Despite Low Strike Rate?

Pakistan’s gritty wicket-keeper batter, Mohammad Rizwan, has been one of the most consistent performers in T20 cricket over the past year. Rizwan’s exploits at the top of the order have helped Pakistan in registering some historical victories and as a result of those match-winning performances, he has ascended to the top of the ICC T20I batter rankings.

Despite his amazing consistency, Rizwan’s inability to utilize the powerplay has been a worrisome sign for Pakistan and his slow starts have cost the team dearly, case in point last night’s 2022 Asia Cup final. While Rizwan did manage to score yet another half-century, his slow strike rate ultimately led to the team’s downfall as Pakistan left a little too late to take on the Sri Lankan bowlers.

Rizwan’s slow starts coupled with Babar Azam’s atrocious run of form put a lot of pressure on an already brittle middle-order of Pakistan and it resulted in plenty of batting collapses. Pakistan’s woeful batting performance in the final was not a one-off as they failed to impress throughout the tournament with their only solid batting performance coming against Hong Kong and India in the Super 4s.

The 30-year-old has a career T20I strike rate of 127.07 which is hardly in accordance with the requirements of the modern game. There is no doubt about his ability to bat long with consistency but shifting gears at the right moment is one aspect of his game that should be improved.

In the recently concluded 2022 Asia Cup, Rizwan’s consistent slow starts troubled the team. In the first match against India, Rizwan scored 43 runs off 42 balls with a strike rate of 102.38 as Pakistan was bowled out for 147. In the next match against Hong Kong, Rizwan scored a half-century at a strike rate of 136.48 and Pakistan managed to post their highest total of the tournament, 193/2.

Pakistan faced India once again, this time in the Super 4s stage, and Rizwan once again struck at a strike rate of 139.21 which helped Pakistan chase down a target of 182. Since that match, Rizwan was unable to accelerate with strike rates of 76.92, 100.00, and 112.24 in three games. Pakistan lost two of the three matches and was on the verge of losing against Afghanistan as well if not for Naseem Shah’s heroics with the bat.

Stick With Rizwan as an Opener

The question arises, should Rizwan continue as an opener in the national T20I side or look to replace him with a more attacking option? In my personal view, Pakistan should stick with Rizwan as an opener as his slow start is not entirely his fault.

There are a few factors that need to be considered. First of all, Pakistan’s brittle middle-order and loss of early wickets do not help Rizwan’s cause as he goes back into his shell and looks to prevent wickets rather than increasing the run rate. Secondly, the national team management’s strategy should be altered as well as they look to save wickets to hit big at the end rather than utilizing the powerplay and score heavily right from the start.

Nevertheless, Rizwan has proven himself to be a fantastic opener in T20I cricket, and amending a few of the things stated above can play a part in enhancing his game even further.

What do you think? Should Rizwan continue as an opener in T20I cricket? Write down your suggestions in the comments!

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