The year 2021 was decisive in cricket in many ways.
It showed us that New Zealand are the best all-format, all-conditions team after winning the World Test Championship title and making it to the final of the T20 World Cup. Australia showed once again why they are always a danger in ICC competitions, winning the T20 title in Dubai — the only white-ball trophy missing from their cabinet.
We also witnessed India failing in another multi-nation tournament, resulting in a farewell to Virat Kohli as the 20-over captain. And finally, Pakistan showed that when the going gets tough — as was the case after successive withdrawals of New Zealand and then England from their tours to Pakistan right before the T20 World Cup — the men in green raise their game to another level.
A major driving force behind Pakistan's superb run in the T20 showpiece event was the form of captain Babar Azam and wicketkeeper batsman Mohammed Rizwan at the top of the order.
Their consistent runs on extremely challenging surfaces in the UAE allowed Pakistan's razor-sharp bowling attack to dictate terms. That was the case even in the semi-final against Australia until a dropped catch and then three extraordinarily brave hits from Matthew Wade denied them victory.
Slowly but surely, Babar and Rizwan have matched and then bettered the king of T20 cricket in Kohli. The India great has not lost form, but has not been as explosive either. Rizwan especially enjoyed a sensational 2021 in T20 cricket, scoring more than 1,000 runs and emerging as one of the foremost batsmen in the format.
Rizwan scored almost 48 runs per outing in 23 innings this year, while topping the run-scoring charts. Babar is behind him at nearly 37 runs per innings in 23 outings. Kohli scored 299 runs from eight innings, which is as good as Babar's numbers. Meanwhile, India's new T20 captain Rohit Sharma made 424 runs from 11 outings in 2021, which is around 38 per innings.
So how good has Rizwan been? Below are three graphics that show just how much.
Pakistan captain Babar has regained his number one spot in T20 cricket. Rizwan has made giant strides, attaining his highest career ranking during the World Cup. With more T20 matches lined up, as the next World Cup is less than one year away, expect more from the Pakistan gloveman.
If we go purely by numbers, Rizwan is the top run-getter in T20 cricket in 2021 with 1,123 runs and Babar behind him on 853 runs. While very few have played as many games as them — 26 apiece — the two are still well before the pack.