The Optimism That Surrounds Mohammad Nawaz’s Revival
Mohammad Nawaz could play an integral role in Pakistan’s white-ball sides, and here’s why.
As a result of a dominant whitewash over the West Indies in Multan, Pakistan have moved up a spot to number four in the ICC ODI rankings. The last time Pakistan achieved this feat was in 2008, about fourteen years ago. For a young team with a young captain to have done this is nothing short of extraordinary.
All-rounder Mohammad Nawaz, who had been on the sidelines for several months courtesy of a foot injury suffered during the PSL, also returned to green colors. Despite a long layoff, the leftie made an instant impact in the series, finishing the first ODI with a nonchalant strike over midwicket.
The 28-year-old rose to the occasion in the second ODI, picking up his career-best 4 for 19 as Pakistan defended a meager 275. He cleaned up Brandon King with a left-arm spinner’s dream delivery – pitching on middle and hitting the top of off. What followed was chaos for the West Indies, as Nawaz ran through their middle order, earning the player of the match award in the process.
A day later, he made an impact with the ball again, picking up two scalps, including the dangerous Nicholas Pooran, for the second time in the series. Throughout the series, the left-armer bowled with tremendous control, forming a formidable spin bowling duo with Shadab Khan.
Nawaz’s series numbers made for good reading: 7 wickets @ 19.4 with an economy rate of 4.5. The left-hander’s returns with the bat in the last two games, however, were disappointing. His career batting numbers fail to leave an impression as well – an average of 18.9 and a strike rate of 90 in sixteen innings. Still, his stark improvement with the bat in recent times suggests Pakistan must show more faith in his batting abilities.
Prior to his injury in the PSL, Nawaz made an impression with bat and ball, striking at 205 in the late middle order. He played a couple of handy cameos, including his blistering 47 of 22 versus Islamabad United. He bowled decently, too, picking up 6 wickets @ 21.
A few months earlier, he lit up the National T20 with his batting heroics, hitting 15 maximums in 5 innings. The 28-year-old racked up 216 runs in 5 innings at a strike rate of a tad under 145. His bowling came along nicely as well, with 8 scalps @ 21. Nawaz’s batting numbers in domestic cricket make for a convincing case, which is perhaps why he insists on being termed as a complete all-rounder rather than a bowling all-rounder.
Although Nawaz hasn’t done justice to his potential with the bat, his contributions with the ball certainly justify him being an integral part of Pakistan’s white-ball sides. His ability to pick up regular wickets takes the pressure off Shadab Khan and gives skipper Babar Azam another attacking option with the ball, and his fielding is outstanding.
With two World Cups to be played in the next sixteen months, Pakistan will hope that the all-rounder stays fit and adds to his ever-improving skillset. One thing is for certain – Pakistan could be in for a real treat having Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz bowl in tandem, particularly for the 50-over World Cup in India.