July 26, 2013

India in Zimbabwe 2013

The Sikandar Raza fan club

Liam Brickhill
Team Raza makes its presence felt at the Harare Sports Club  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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During the first one-day international in Harare, the television cameras panned repeatedly over an excitable group of young men sitting in the concrete Tobacco Industries stand. Each one wore a white t-shirt emblazoned with 'Team Raza', and the group grew ever more excitable with each run that Sikandar Raza scored. The group were back again on Friday, so I left the press box to inquire about their relation to the Zimbabwean opener. Were they family? Friends? Or just really, really enthusiastic cricket fans? The answer, as it turned out, was all three.

Two 'Team Raza' members sat watching the start of Zimbabwe's chase. They introduced themselves as Irfan and Yasir. "We are his friends," explained Irfan, a finance specialist with the United Nations Development Programme who has worked in Pakistan and Sudan before coming to Zimbabwe. "More of us are on the way now. They're just coming back from prayers."

"By the way," he added as we waited, "I love Cricinfo. I read it every day, before I read any other news. First Cricinfo, then the rest." I decided I liked this guy.

Sure enough, a few minutes later several more young men rounded the corner into the stand, all but one - who was wearing a black kurta - proudly showed off their 'Team Raza' shirts. Unfortunately, just as they walked in Raza toe-ended a pull off Jaydev Unadkat and trudged off solemnly. One member of the group was particularly vexed by the dismissal. He is Raza's younger brother Taymoor, and the whole 'Team Raza' thing was his idea.

T-shirts, flags, and plenty of noisy support. I assumed Taymoor must love watching his brother play for Zimbabwe. "Honestly, I don't like watching him bat," was his surprising answer. "I don't! In the first match, I was just walking in and out [of the stand]. When he gets to over 30 I'm fine, but before 30 it's nervewracking. It can be disheartening because I know how much effort my brother put into this - when he doesn't do well I know how he's going to feel and that makes me feel extremely bad."

Raza's story is quickly becoming more well known. A failed eye test in his teens ruined a childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot, and so he turned his hand to cricket instead. "He has been through a lot', explained Taymoor. "In the beginning, he wanted to be a fighter pilot, and then that didn't work out. The same drive is still there. He has still got a little bit of fighter left in him.

"While he was studying in Scotland, he started playing club cricket there, and he started improving. When he came back from studies, he told dad, 'You know what, I'm getting into this cricket stuff.' Dad said: 'If you want to do it, then leave everything and just do that. So you know that you tried. You might as well do it, and fail and regret, than not try at all. That's a bigger regret.'"

Though it's too early to say whether Raza's cricket career will be a successful one, the belief of Tasadaq, the boys' father, in his son's abilities appears to be paying off. He's not the only one who believes, and Taymoor's support must also be important.

"I'll definitely be here on Sunday," he said. "Today, he's gone so there's nothing we can do, but Sunday hopefully will be a better day. We're planning on going to Bulawayo as well. If a lot of the guys want to go, we'll take a drive but if it's just me, I'll fly. I've got to be there. I've got to support my brother."

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Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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Keywords: Fans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by GrandMasterSaxay on (July 31, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

I didn't quite understand the whole idea behind Team Raza; he is no Tendulkar or Andy Flower. Raza is still fresh and have loads of flaws in his batting technique. At the moment he is not even a club level batsman, he is indeed lucky to play for a National Team. I don't see any future if he continues to play with such cocky batting technique. He need to work out a lot and learn from his team members Taylor, Sibanda and Masakadza

Posted by Eurphan on (July 27, 2013, 18:38 GMT)

All the best to Sikandar Raza who is really a talented cricketer and can perform consistently from Zimbabwe. Played very impressive inning of 82 runs in 1st ODI against India. Lets hope, if he delivers in next 3 ODIs. Irfan

Posted by crimsonbull on (July 27, 2013, 12:06 GMT)

I have watched him bat. he will not cross 25 average. Sorry he has many faults as many as Dhawan.

Posted by raj040686 on (July 27, 2013, 8:18 GMT)

Best wishes to Raza from India! Will be rooting for him in the future matches!

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