Mohammad Rizwan appeared impossibly relaxed in the press conference. He would stroll in, unencumbered by any lingering pain from the cramps and back pain that clutched him during his fire and brimstone 131 not out. He would check the microphone and playfully ask: “I am too loud? Should I go back a bit? Is everyone settled?” He would move back and forth his chair, adjust the height of it and stroke his neatly-trimmed beard, his eyes flickering here and there, with no hint of impatience.
— ICC Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) October 10, 2023
Perhaps, the pain was lost in the sweetness of the knock. “Sometimes, it’s pain, sometimes it is acting,” he said, giggling. He did not make much fuss of the pain and did not dwell too long on it. “I think I will give credit to our physio Cliffy. The way he gave me some magic, I don’t know what you call it, the cramp fix, it’s a medicine,” he would say.
The pain kept fluctuating. “At the moment I am fine, but sometimes pain or cramp comes, sometimes it doesn’t come,” he said.
But when batting in the middle, there were clear signs that he was in immense pain, often clutching his pain and holding his back in agony. At no point though did he give up: “But during my batting I didn’t want to give it away, because you know the bowling of Sri Lanka, they have decent bowlers. If I give him the wicket at that moment, it’s difficult for the new batsman. I have seen this in the start of my career because I was coming on seven on eight in that position. If I give him a wicket at that time, it’s very difficult for the other batsman that follow,” he said.
Though Pakistan lost Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam early on they did not combust “So when we reached the ground today, Abdul Rahman who is also our coach and there were 2-3 more players with me, said, Rizwan this pitch looks like a batting pitch. When we were bowling inside, I think it was 33-32 over that time, I told Nawaz and 2-3 players, if we restrict it to 340-plus, then I hope it’s the best. If it goes above that, it means we’re not doing good bowling,” he recounted.
His advice to Shafique, playing his first World Cup game, was simple, and still only five-innings-old. “I told Abdullah not to look at the board. We kept following our plan, because there was a separate plan till 20 over, there was a separate plan till 30 and then there was a separate plan till 40 over. This is what we planned. It is this communication and calculation (that helped us),” he dissected the chase.
At times, though he turned philosophical, thanking destiny for his century, and downplaying the innings. “I know the demand of Allah. The demand of Almighty from me, because if I understand that as a Muslim, Allah is only mine, then it is not understandable, because Allah is the Lord of the Worlds, he is also there for India’s Virat Kohli, for Joe Root. Steve Smith’s too, he’s everyone’s,” he elaborated. He would repeat the word dua several times in the press conference.
For proof, he pointed out to a thick edge early on in the innings that flew over the point fielder. “In any match, and if you look at my first edge for three runs, which went over the fielder, it could have gone in the hands of the fielder too. But I believe in these things,” he said.
In typically self-deprecating style, he termed himself as a hardworking player rather than one blessed with oodles of talent. “It is hard work; it is bravery and then it is execution of a good deed which you do at the right time. The rest I leave to Allah,” he said.
The mood once again lightened, when he spoke about the love—mohabbat—he and his teammates received from the crowd: “ I felt like I was playing in front of crowd of Rawalpindi, our ground in Lahore is big, a lot of people come there, this ground felt like Rawalpindi. Today it seems that Pakistan’s match is taking place in Rawalpindi.”
He would occasionally be playful. When a journalist from Pakistan asked whether he is audible, he said, sharpening his ears to the direction of zoom call: “Haan bhai, haa, awaaz aara hain…” like you see in the 90s movies. He then looked at the crowd: Bahut door sein aate hain. Time lag jayega aawaz sunne ke liye (It’s coming from far, so it would take sound some time to travel.” He had the floor in splits.
To a journalist who asked whether he had been to Char Minar, he said:” Hamne, sirf Nizam saab ka mahal dekha!” Replying to a long winding question, he would say: “Sawaal ka jawaab bhool gaye toh bata dijiyega. Chaar sawaal ho gaye mere khayaal se.”
The joy of that knock lingered as he posed with selfies with some of the guards and attenders, without any haste or fuss, soaking in the moment. As he left the press conference room and ambled into the dressing room, he took a long deep look at the ground of his ,pst famous exploit and looked up at the dull sky, just as the tired groundsmen began to fasten a tarpaulin sheet over the ground. Did he shed a tear? Perhaps he would have. A tear of joy.