The moment Zimbabwean all-rounder Sikandar Raza’s phone started beeping incessantly, he knew something decisive must have happened at the Pakistan Super League draft.
Currently playing for Tshwane Spartans in the Mzansi Super League, he was unable to watch the draft live, but was ecstatic when he was informed he had been picked by Karachi Kings. Out of all the congratulatory messages he received, one stood out. A well-wisher messaged him to say “At least Karachi Kings is bringing a son of the soil, back to the soil.”
Hailing from Sialkot, after studying at Government College Lahore and playing club cricket in Scotland, his father started a business in Zimbabwe, hence he spent his gap year in the country. He completed his software engineering degree whilst playing franchise cricket. He got into Zimbabwe’s A team before making his national debut, in an ODI against Bangladesh in 2013. His Test debut was against Pakistan later that same year.
Interestingly, prior to the PSL draft, he did not seem confident of being picked in the league and was quoted as saying that if he were chosen, it would be a bonus. However, franchise selectors have obviously kept an eye on his T20 league experience. This year alone he has played for the Montreal Tigers in the Global T20 Canada as well as Paktia Panthers in the Afghanistan Premier League. Following being captained by AB De Villiers in the Mzansi Super League, he will play for the Kathmandu Kings XI in the Everest Premier League next month. He has also signed up for the Bangladesh Premier League next year but interestingly, with all this T20 league experience, he still cites playing for his adopted country as his priority.
“A lot of good people worked behind the scenes to resolve the issues with Zimbabwe Cricket. I have to repay that trust. I do not want to go the T20 league route completely. I would rather play international. I am not criticizing those who did it but as long as I am performing and enjoying it, I would like to represent Zimbabwe internationally.”
After not qualifying, Zimbabwe is not taking part in the ICC Cricket WC 2019. Despite expressing his frustration at there being only10 teams in the tournament, Raza made his mark in Zimbabwe’s 1st Test against Bangladesh earlier this month. His 3-35 followed by 3-41 in the 2nd innings, helped propel his home side to their first overseas Test win in 17 years.
Talk veers to Karachi Kings and UAE pitches. “In the UAE I’ve had a decent outing in the recent Afghanistan Premier League, as well as the February 2018 series against Afghanistan. As long as the conditions are decent, I do not have a lot of variables in my head. I do whatever is required for the team.”
He may be thrilled to be a part of his original homegrown league but he rationalises his dual roles. “Pakistan has given me an identity but I am who I am as a cricketer, because of Zimbabwe.”