Cheema selected for international Twenty/20 pro league.

To say that Rizwan Cheema is badly in need of runs is an understatement.

Following his poor showing of 13 runs in the recent Caribbean Twenty/20 cricket competition in which Canada lost all four of its matches, the Pakistani-born all-rounder has been offered a golden opportunity to showcase his skills in a major Twenty/20 competition.

The hard-hitting 33-year-old batsman and useful slow bowler has made history by becoming the first Canadian cricketer to be selected in an international Twenty/20 pro league.

The Duronto Rajshahi bought Cheema for $25,000 to participate in the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League six-team tournament that runs February 9-29.

“This is a big opportunity for me,” Cheema told Share shortly after his return from the Caribbean. “It’s quite an honour to know that I am the first player from Canada to be selected to play at this level and the opportunity comes at an appropriate time when we are preparing for the World Twenty/20 qualifier. It’s a chance for me to regain my form and play with some of the world’s leading players.”

Cheema admits he’s badly in need of runs and will have to be a significant contributor if Canada is going to seriously contend for a place in this year’s World Cup Twenty/20 competition in Sri Lanka.

“I am seeing the ball well and still confident at the crease, but it’s just one of those things where the runs are not coming,” said Cheema, who was a finalist for the 2009 International Cricket Council (ICC) Associate Player of the Year Award. “I will continue to work hard in the nets and, hopefully, one big score will get things going for me again.”

On his first visit to Bangladesh in February 2011, Cheema smashed 93 off 71 balls with five sixes and 10 boundaries in a World Cup warm-up match against an England side that included Stuart Broad who took five wickets in his team’s 16-run win.

“The wickets there are good and I have had some success so, hopefully, I can get some runs there again when I go back,” he added.

With University of Pennsylvania MBA student and former captain, Ashish Bagai, unavailable for the 16-team World Cup qualifier in Dubai from March 13 to 24, Cricket Canada’s coach and development officer, Ingleton Liburd, said Cheema needs to be productive with the bat if Canada is going to be among the two teams advancing to the World Cup.

The top two teams in the Dubai qualifying tournament will join the 10 Test-playing countries in the fourth ICC Twenty/20 World Cup from September 18 to October 7.

“Playing in the Bangladesh Twenty/20 series is a good opportunity for Rizwan to showcase himself,” said Liburd. “But more than that, it’s a chance for him to play with some of the world’s top players and show that he belongs by making runs.”

Since August 2011, he has averaged 20.2 in his last 12 innings for Canada.

Cheema rose to prominence in the summer of 2008 in the triangular One-Day International series involving the West Indies and Bermuda at King City. He slammed 34 off 24 balls, took two catches and picked up a wicket in his ODI debut against the West Indies.

In the next game, he belted the Caribbean  bowling attack, that included Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell, for 89 off 61 balls with six huge sixes and 10 boundaries.

He ended the competition with a tournament-best 184 runs (av. 61.33), 12 sixes and three catches.

Cheema shone a few weeks later in the Al Barakah Twenty/20 international series at King City, finishing as the third leading scorer with 127 runs (av. 31.75) and the top sixes hitter with 10. Test-playing nations Pakistan and Sri Lanka and ICC Full Member Zimbabwe competed in the Thanksgiving Weekend series.

Cheema is one of four players from ICC Associate Nations sold at the Bangladesh auction.

Ireland’s wicketkeeper/batsman Niall O’Brien fetched $80,000, Dutch batsman Alexei Kervezee was bought for $35,000 and Afghanistan fast bowler Hamid Hassan was sold for $40,000.


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