Zimbabwe cricket team’s fortunes are improving after a long period of mediocrity, and a certain Sikandar Raza finds himself at the centre of it all. The 31-year-old all-rounder has been one of the vital cogs in the Zimbabwean team that has created history in their current tour of Sri Lanka. (SL v ZIM score)
Zimbabwe won an ODI series for the first time against Sri Lanka when they clinched a five-match ODI series 3-2, with Sikandar Raza playing a pivotal role.
He smacked an unbeaten 67 in Zimbabwe’s record chase of 317 at Galle in the first game, and ended with the right-handed batsman scoring a run-a-ball 27 not out in the final ODI, helping his team chase down a modest total of 204. In the same contest, he had earlier claimed a crucial 3 for 21 to help Zimbabwe restrict Sri Lanka.
There has been no respite for the Sri Lankans in the one-off Test, as Raza hammered his maiden Test century to help Zimbabwe seize control of the contest. Raza’s score of 127 helped Zimbabwe set a daunting target of 388 for Sri Lanka to win.
Let us look at 10 facts that define Sikandar Raza:
1. Pakistani origin: Raza was born in Sialkot in Pakistan’s North East. However, neither he played any form of cricket in the country not he had any aspirations to do so. Raza told PakPassion, “I did not play any club cricket in Pakistan and I had no aspirations to play for Pakistan at all.”
2. A dream shattered: Raza wanted to become an Air Force fighter pilot, and he had conveyed this to his parents when he was a mere 11. According to Cricinfo, Raza was selected in 60 out of as many as 60,000 candidates to have applied in the Air Force College. However, after failing an eye test in his third year, Raza’s dream was shattered.
3. Never meant to be a cricketer: In several of his interviews, Raza has admitted he was never ‘meant’ to be a cricketer. “I was never meant to play cricket. In my heart I wanted to be a fighter pilot. After that dream didn’t come true, I wanted to be a software engineer,” he told Cricinfo.
4. Studies the main priority: Move to UK and then Zimbabwe: Raza went on to UK for studies, while his parents proceeded to Zimbabwe and settled down in the country in 2002.
5. Start of cricketing journey: Raza made his First-Class debut in Zimbabwe in 2007 and continued his studies alongside. It was only in the 2010-11 season that he began playing cricket as a full-time player.
6. Rise through the ranks: Raza was a member of the Zimbabwean A side by 2012. In 2013, he made his ODI debut against Bangladesh at Bulawayo.
7. Surprise Test debut: It did not take long for Raza to play Test cricket for Zimbabwe. A mere four months after his ODI debut, Raza was handed his Test debut when Brendan Taylor, then Zimbabwe’s captain pulled out of contest against Pakistan due to the birth of his first child.
8. Memorable win as captain: In his own words, Raza was told that he will be captaining Zimbabwe in a contest at around 12.10 in the afternoon, for a match starting 1.00 pm. Raza faced an acid Test as Zimbabwe took on an India side that were inexperienced but still had MS Dhoni. After posting 145, Zimbabwe did extremely well to register a surprise 10-run win.
9. The first hundred: Raza has established himself in the Zimbabwean middle-order but big eluded him. In 70 matches, Raza has accumulated three centuries and 8 fifties. The first ton, however, will remain close to him as it came against Afghanistan in June 2014.
10. In the race: Among the current Zimbabwean batsmen, Raza has one of the most impressive Test averages, which is close to 40.