Mohammad Nawaz started out in cricket at the age of 14 as a left-arm medium-fast bowler and a middle-order batsman. An all-round performance of 60 runs and a four-for for Rawalpindi against Sialkot in an inter-region Under-16 tournament in 2008 earned him a place in the Pakistan side for the International Under-15 Championship in the West Indies. On the slow pitches of the Caribbean, he changed his bowling style to left-arm spin and transformed into a spin-bowling allrounder, with help from coach Ameer Akbar and team manager Haroon Rashid.
Nawaz studied at the FG Boys School in Rawalpindi but chose to discontinue his college education to focus on cricket instead. In the first four seasons after his first-class debut in 2012, Nawaz scored three first-class centuries and seven half-centuries, tallying 1440 runs, and took 44 wickets at an average of 24.4. Nawaz played for Quetta Gladiators in the inaugural Pakistan Super League and finished as the third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, with 13 dismissals. That performance earned him a place in Pakistan's T20 squad for the 2016 Asia Cup in Bangladesh. A few months later, he was picked in the ODI side for the tour of England and Ireland.