Sikandar Raza Epitomises All That’s Honest And Meaningful About Zimbabwean Cricket!
It was the 3rd of May in 2013 when on a hot Bulawayo afternoon during the opening one day of an important bi-lateral series, Tamim Iqbal, Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah played rather composedly and found themselves among useful runs. The troika would together compile most of Bangladesh’s 269 runs, a target that the hosts Zimbabwe never realistically looked comfortable chasing after a slew of early wickets fell.
But most eyes were perhaps focused on a newcomer who came out to bat at number three. Though finding his stumps disturbed on just the sixth ball he had faced, the right hander was sent packing by Shafiul Islam; the new arrivee on the Zimbabwean cricketing season departed for no more than three against his name.
Just a few hours back, during just their second game of their ongoing World Cup qualifiers challenge, Zimbabwe found that new guy who had arrived in 2013 scripted history and in a rather powerful fashion.
It’s one thing to chase down a challenging one day total and something quite different to do so with nearly nine full overs left in the tank.
As Zimbabwe chased down a not so small 316 against the Netherlands on just the final delivery of the 41st over, Sikandar Raza was the talk of the town as also of the country.
Sean Williams’s record for the fastest ever century, which was scored in just the previous game (against Nepal), had now been smashed much like the Dutch spinners and medium pacers. Those who met Sikandar Raza collided with an asteroid given his bludgeoning batting form just hours back at the Harare Sports Club.
The boundaries of a significantly spacious cricketing ground appeared smaller than they are and anyone and everyone, whether Bas de Leede or Aryan Dutt or Logan van Beek were sent on a leather hunt.
Sikandar Raza emerged unbeaten on a 102 taking just 54 deliveries to reach yet another milestone in a career that’s walked quite a long mile since it began in maybe not the most memorable fashion a decade back in the day.
For someone who originally aspired to be an aviator desiring talking to the skies as being his mainstream profession, Sikandar Raza can send the cricket ball miles into the suspended skies. Perhaps at this time one of the most less-visited or even under-estimated fact is that Sikandar Raza needs just four more sixes to hit a century in the one day format.
Given he fired eight in his previous outing as if it was a child’s play, he can certainly attain the dazzling feat in Zimbabwe’s next World Cup qualifiers outing.
But the Raza story doesn’t only play itself around big hits and compiling useful runs from a batting position wherein not too many overs are left to be played by the time he avidly walks out on the field.
The Sikandar Raza story is built arduously around the big desire to contribute to the team’s cause and turning up game after game with rich vigor and that quintessential never say die spirit.
While he plays with much focus and bravado, the latter not so hard to spot actually, it’s not always that cricketing headlines find Sikandar Raza as regularly as maybe they should.
Call it the way popcorn journalism beats down our throat in this clickbait journalism age where hype and needless Cricket Twitter polls are the order of the day or what you may. But, fact is that Sikandar Raza, much like an Usman Khawaja, Curtis Campher, Shai Hope, Craig Ervine, Blair Tickner, Henry Nicholls and the likes deserves more feature content on him than is being done.
Lest we forget, you and I are in an age where a random pic of Steve Smith leaving a cricket ball finds countless retweets and god knows, how many likes; many of which happen on a day where the great Australian isn’t even playing a live game.
On most of these occasions, someone like Raza, who takes wickets, throws himself all around the ground and scores dollops of runs, simply rolls by a bit unnoticed.
Is that right? Is that how we ought to treat a world class all round talent, who on pure capability, is right up there with a Pat Cummins or Jason Holder?
For someone who was once a cricketing newborn to someone who today is unfailingly one of the pillars of Zimbabwean batting, Craig Ervine and Sean Williams being the other two, Sikandar Raza has actually had quite a few bright years most recently.
But again, did we notice? Were his achievements mainstream in the so called purist publications of the world who can, endlessly debate long after it’s over a solitary Test match, even if that’s the World Test Championship final?
Lame call? False accusation? You decide.
In the last three calendar years including whatever’s been achieved in 2023, Sikandar Raza has always averaged 50 with the bat in one dayers.
1010 of his 3800 plus one day runs have come in the course of just 25 one day innings. Moreover, the blitzy strike rate at which he goes about accumulating his runs, changing gears from being a strike rotator into a bowler smasher should afford Raza a place among the most exciting contemporary talents.
Yet, there’s not a day in the cricketing social media stratosphere where we don’t fail to remember the famed Fab four whilst ever so little is talked about names that belong whether to an Ireland, Windies or as in Raza’s case, Zimbabwe.
Inside the last half a decade, Raza’s career has thrived on opportunity and flourished amid pressure. He’s found a place in the Indian Premier League, collected his best bowling figures in one day cricket (4 for 55), smashed a world record breaking ton for his Zimbabwe and represented a dozen T20 leagues around the world.
There’s much at stake for his country in the World Cup qualifiers. It might not be some point-break moment but it would certainly account for a shattering moment if the hosts don’t make it again, having failed to qualify in the 2019 ODI world cup.
But the 37-year-old who plays cricket with the enthusiasm of a 20 something college passout is leaving no stone unturned and no challenge un-attempted in his bid to make Zimbabwe go over the line.
This time, he has his best mates with the bat in fine form too.