Rizwan to follow in Sarfaraz footsteps

Wicketkeeper-batsman will be leading Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the upcoming domestic season

Rizwan to follow in Sarfaraz footsteps PHOTO COURTESY: CRICKET AUSTRALIA

Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan will have a blend of senior and youth available at his disposal, when the 2019-20 domestic season commences with their opening Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match against Northern.

After leading Pakistan to the semi-final of the ACC Emerging Teams Cup 2018 last year, Rizwan is tasked with the demanding job of leading Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in what promises to be a competitive cricket season after the recent restructuring, which will see the country’s best cricketers feature in first-class cricket.

In a bid to groom up-and-coming cricketers for the leadership role, opener Sahibzada Farhan has been appointed as Rizwan’s deputy. He will take up the captaincy responsibilities in the absence of Rizwan.

Rizwan is upbeat about his team chances in the upcoming domestic season.

“Our strength lies in our fast-bowling, which is a perfect mix of young and senior pacers. We have the bowlers who can bowl the new ball and reverse an old one,” said Rizwan. “We might not have that much experience in the spin department as compared to the other teams, but we will plug those gaps with the all-rounders at our disposal.”

“We have a young batting side, which plays aggressive cricket and dominates white-ball cricket. But, at the same time, we have an experienced batsman in Iftikhar [Ahmed] who takes his time at the crease and constructs an innings. We will look to fine tune our combinations, because once you get them right they help you in covering up the weaker areas,” he added.

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s batting will revolve around the skill and experience of 29-year-old Iftikhar Ahmed. The right-handed batsman scored 660 runs in seven matches last season at an average of 73.33. He was the second highest run-getter in the 2017/18 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 735 runs in 11 matches and played a crucial role in helping Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) secure the title by scoring 73 and 106 in their 103-run win over defending champions Water and Power Development Authority in the final.

The side’s batting will be bolstered by the presence of Adil Amin. The right-handed batsman scored 654 runs – which included his highest score of 211 not out – at an average of 60 in the last edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Rizwan will also have the option of resorting to 35-year-old all-rounder Zohaib Khan, under whose captaincy Peshawar turned into a force to reckon in T20 cricket. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also boasts hard-hitting white-ball batsmen in the likes of their vice-captain, Nabi Gul and Israrullah who have the opportunity of bringing maturity in their batting with prolonged stays at the crease in red-ball cricket against quality bowling attacks.

Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s pace department is dominated by the up-and-coming pacers, Sameen Gul and Mohammad Ilyas, who impressed in this year’s HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL), where he represented Multan Sultans.

Twenty-year-olds Sameen and Ilyas played five matches each in the 2018/19 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Khan Research Laboratories and Peshawar, taking 19 wickets at 17.68 and 33 wickets at 15.90 respectively.

Their raw talent will be complimented by the experience of the 32-year-old Imran Khan. The right-arm fast-medium has 91 first-class matches – nine of which are Tests – to his name and as many as 335 wickets under his belt.

Their spin department might on paper lack the desired depth, but the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa side boasts exciting spinners who can wreak havoc with the assistance of the pitch.

Umar Khan – the teenage sensation who accounted for the wickets of every marquee T20 batsman in this year’s HBL PSL – will get an opportunity to further enhance his bowling credentials. He has Zohaib and 30-year-old Irfan Khan to guide him through the challenges of first-class cricket.