Seasoned Raza hopes to make a mark in maiden IPL

Sikandar Raza celebrates after reaching his century against India last year. CREDIT: Zimbabwe Cricket

Punjab – Soon after being picked by Punjab Kings in the IPL auction, Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza posted a picture on social media expressing his excitement.

His post was flooded with congratulatory messages from his country, including one from his teammate Ryan Burl. “Go enjoy! There’s 16 million Zimbabweans supporting,” Ryan tweeted sharing one of Raza’s posts.

Ask Raza about him being in Mohali and the mood back home, and this is what he said: “It is just amazing to be in Punjab. Since I reached Mohali, I have learned some Punjabi words. By the time I go back to Zimbabwe, I am sure my spoken Punjabi will be revived. Back in Zimbabwe, the cricket fraternity is upbeat about the fact that I will be seen in action during the upcoming IPL. My name is in the headlines these days and there is a good buzz. IPL is definitely the ultimate cricket league in the world and the one every cricketer aspires to be part of.”

The prolific all-rounder was roped in by Punjab Kings at his base price of ₹50 lakh (around US$60 000) at the IPL 2023 auction in December.

He became just the fourth Zimbabwe cricketer to be signed by an IPL side. Brendan Taylor, Ray Price, and Tatenda Taibu are the remaining three Zimbabwe cricketers who previously took part in IPL.

Originally from Sialkot in Pakistan, Raza shifted to Harare back in 2002 along with his parents.

He then went to Scotland where he pursued a degree in software engineering. It was in Scotland that he realised his love for the sport.

On his return, he soon caught the eyes of Zimbabwe selectors while he flourished in the domestic matches.

Two years after he acquired Zimbabwean citizenship in 2011, he made his international debut against Bangladesh.

He was selected to play for Chittagong Vikings in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2016. From then on, there was no looking back for him as he dominated franchise cricket.

Sikandar Raza in action at the Pakistan Super League recently

The spotlight will be on Raza when he turns out for the Punjab outfit as he has experienced great success in T20 leagues across the world. Barring Australia’s Big Bash League, Raza has been part of T20 leagues of Pakistan, UAE, West Indies, Bangladesh, UAE, Europe, Sri Lanka, and Canada. He would be ticking another box on his bucket list when he makes his debut for Punjab Kings.

“Each league has its own challenges. I have had just one session till now and I am pumped up for this challenge. I have spoken to cricketers about the playing conditions and the kind of pitches here in India during the IPL. I need to adjust to these conditions and do my role for the franchise,” said Raza, who has known Punjab Kings captain Shikhar Dhawan since 2013 and thinks his leadership will boost his confidence.

“I have known Shikhar bhai for a decade now. He is an outstanding cricketer and a great human being. I am looking forward to training alongside him and chewing on his brain,” added Raza, who has played 17 Tests,129 ODIs, and 66 T20Is for Zimbabwe.

A useful all-rounder, Raza should provide much-needed stability to both the bowling and batting departments.

Asked if he was a bit late to make his IPL debut, the 36-year-old replied. “I think age has nothing to do with the performance. I have no regrets. I had to play IPL now and that’s what I am doing. Inshaallah, I would deliver the goods and enjoy the process.”

Punjab Kings plated against Kolkata Knight Riders in their first IPL tie this season on Saturday (April 1) in Mohali.




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