February 5, 2023

Sikandar Raza has always wanted to be a busy cricketer. He has seen players around him travel around the world, from one T20 league to another. He has always wanted to be one of them and now he just about is. He played in Pakistan Super League, Caribbean Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and Lanka Premier League apart from domestic T20 tournaments in Afghanistan and Nepal. He is currently in Kathmandu playing for the Biratnagar Super Kings. Next month he will go to Dhaka for the BPL. And in March he will be part of the most high-profile franchise league of them all, having been snapped up today by Punjab Kings in the 2023 IPL auction.

The Zimbabwean all-rounder, who has roots in Punjab, was quite excited about the prospect. “It was part of my thinking that it would be nice to have the IPL on my resume before I hang up my boots,” Raza told ESPNcricinfo. “Alhamdulillah (thank goodness) it happened. I am very happy, humbled and excited at the same time. I would have [been fine with] any franchise but to have a Punjabi world in Punjab it’s a great match.”

Raza was following the IPL auction in Kathmandu and just as his name came up, the internet connection dropped. By the time he came back online, his turn was over.

“I was training today. I was calm. Sometimes I was nervous. I went through all the emotions before the auction.

“We went back to the hotel. Then there was an anti-corruption meeting [while the auction was on]. When it was my turn at the IPL auction, I moved from one room to another and the internet connection was lost.

“As it reconnected I got a lot of messages from my friends congratulating me. I said ‘what, I can’t see it. Are you guys playing a prank?’ They said check the auction I said I was checking but I haven’t even been there yet.

“What happened was that by the time I reconnected I was already gone. So basically I didn’t see the offer. Maybe that was actually a good thing. I think it’s a good thing. If I had looked , I would have yelled in the meeting!”

“It was incredible. It changed my life and career. Every time I’ve won a Player-of-the-Match trophy, I kiss my mom’s hand and give her the trophy. The best part of these few months is that I have presented her with many trophies. I think the trophy cabinet is now full. In summary, I would say that making my parents proud has been the highlight.”

And the highlights on the pitch? “The top three would be the hundred against India and Ireland and beat Pakistan in the T20 World Cup,” said Raza after much thought.
All this because Zimbabwe has to fight for a place in the T20 World Cup through a qualifying tournament and Raza was not in the right mood a few months ago. A video call with new coaching director Dave Houghton, Raza said, proved to be a major turning point.
“Without going into too much detail, I was not enjoying my cricket. My first meeting with Dave Houghton was through a WhatsApp video call. I was in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. That one meeting changed a lot of things for me. I expected a steady order that ‘I want you back this day.’

“But all he said was ‘Son you play cricket. Get the trophy. Enjoy it. I’ll see you when you come back’. That’s all he said to me, and it changed a lot of things in my spirit. It was a turning point. Dave Houghton played a big role.”

Now Raza is exactly where he wants to be in his cricket career, and he plans to take it all in. so I won’t complain about anything – the wicket, the weather or changing environment, culture and dressing room. I’ll just be thankful, which makes everything else easier. “

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