Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare

Sikandar Raza hungry for more

Sikandar Raza is not going to let himself be satisfied with his promising start to the series; he wants more for himself and for Zimbabwean cricket

Liam Brickhill at the Harare Sports Club

July 24, 2013

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Sikandar Raza raises his bat after reaching his half-century, Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare, July 24, 2013
Sikandar Raza: "The question [of the missed century] stung me properly. I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life" © AFP
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A maiden international fifty against the world champions would give most cricketers cause to celebrate. But for Sikandar Raza, reaching the 80s and not going on to a hundred left him bitterly disappointed.

"A friend of mine just asked me something," he said after Zimbabwe's six-wicket defeat to India. "He asked me: 'How did it feel when Virat got his hundred?' I tell you, that question stung me properly. I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life. I'm not going to find these opportunities a lot, so when I do I'm going to have to make sure that I convert them."

Raza is no stranger to disappointment, and perhaps it is a residual memory of the failed eye test that quashed his childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot in Pakistan that motivates him so fiercely. Or maybe it is the sheer amount of hard work he has had to put in to get this far as a cricketer. Either way, at 27 years old and now only beginning his international career, he knows he has got to take every chance he can.

"I'll definitely be in the nets after this press conference," he said. "I've got a few areas to brush up on, so that if I find myself with the same opportunity, I'm not putting myself under pressure and neither am I putting my team under pressure."

After losing the toss on a lively pitch first thing in the morning, Zimbabwe were indeed under pressure from the very start. "History tells us that at [Harare] Sports Club batting first is always very tricky," Raza said. "It was nipping around. From one side it was skidding and from the other side it was not coming on to the bat. That was happening, along with the movement and seam, so it was quite tricky to bat. So what we decided was that we're going to keep wickets in hand, because that would give our team a better chance to post a competitive total."

Sticking to such a defensive gameplan couldn't have been easy for a batsman who built his domestic reputation upon innings of daring adventure. He sums up his batting technique as "see ball, hit ball, and try to survive mate", and once shared a partnership of 98 with Brian Lara - a batsman known to play a few shots himself - in Zimbabwe's domestic Twenty20 competition to which Lara contributed just 11. Today, he played more blocks than slogs but still finished with a strike rate of 73.21 and eight boundaries.

"The flair will stay there, and I hope it stays there for the rest of my career," Raza said. "But the fact is when you're playing international cricket at such a high level you're not going to get bad balls and if I'm trying to make something out of nothing I'm going to throw my wicket away.

"I would love to play my cricket with a lot of flair but unfortunately that doesn't always happen after just four [ODI] games. Hopefully as I keep on playing, I can start playing more shots. But at the moment, the plan we set, we have to stick to that so that it gives me and my team the best opportunity."

With his brother and several cousins - all wearing 'Team Raza' t-shirts - cheering him on, Raza was in sight of his ton when he swiped across the line at a delivery from Mishra that skidded on to rattle his stumps. Raza trudged off, his head hung in disappointment, and conceded that with the big-hitting Elton Chigumbura at the other end, he probably should have been looking for a single.

"I just wanted to give Elty [Chigumbura] the strike. Elty was hitting it so well that when I was standing at the other end I was slightly scared [what would happen] if he hits one straight back. Maybe I was trying to be too smart. I saw a gap and I wanted to pick two or three there. Maybe I should have just kept it simple and let Elty do the power hitting."

Raza will get another chance to prove himself on Friday, but insisted that success in this series is more important to the team and cricket in Zimbabwe than it might be to him personally. Zimbabwe have struggled to attract elite opposition - and the TV rights cash that comes with them - and they understand what a big opportunity a visit by India presents.

"This is a massive tour, for Zimbabwe to start with and then individually for me as well, because it could be make or break for us," he concluded. "So if we do really well here, hopefully we'll have more cricket coming to us, which could only help us improve."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by cnksnk on (July 25, 2013, 11:21 GMT)

As a start BCCI can do 2 things. A) invite Ireland, Afganistan and a Zimbambwe team as participants in Duleep Trohpy. B) Allow each of the Ranji teams to take 1 overseas player from these countries in their teams. This will go a long way in giving exposure to players from these countries. I remember back in the 70 s ( Before SriLanka became a test playing country) the then Ceylon used to play the Tamilnadu state team for the M J Gopalan trophy. The games were closely contested and I guess would have contributed to the exposure of the Sri Lanka players. Hope BCCI helps in giving exposure to players from smaller countries.

Posted by   on (July 25, 2013, 11:16 GMT)

Zaka Ullah: Yes, lots of talent but no opportunities.. that is why your cricketers are trying to find opportunities elsewhere.

Posted by   on (July 25, 2013, 10:25 GMT)

for Pak orn forign players... we have Fahad n Khawaja in Australia, tahir in SA, Ajmal Shaehzad, Adil Rashid in England, Muddasir bukhari in Holland. Alot others in other small teams. ths shows how much talent we have got in this country...

Posted by CricketMaan on (July 25, 2013, 8:08 GMT)

Well done Raza, as a person living overseas i see more and more Pak born cricketers don duties for thier adopted countries, we will see more Razas, Tahirs and Fahads very soon. I can see a few more come into NZ cricket as they too are in need of some expat spinners and there are a plety in the subcontinent. On another note while BCCI is helping out Zim, its more a political one to make sure Zim is on thier side and not with Eng and Aus. Its for that 1 vote that might matter in key decisions. With Windies, SL, NZ, Zim, SA and Bangla frimly in BCCIs pocket and Aus too getting friendly it only leaves Eng and Pak far away. if only India and push Ireland and Afghanistans case thier position in ICC will be even more unassailable and Eng, MCC will be left alone fighting for their own cause and existence.

Posted by cricketforpeace on (July 25, 2013, 6:13 GMT)

I like that attitude of this lad -Sikandar Raza. "The question of the missed century stung me properly. I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life". Here is a young lad who will go a long way in this game, if persisted with by the Zimbabweans. I look forward to watching his progress.

Posted by Sheikasif on (July 25, 2013, 5:27 GMT)

Good on India for giving Zimbabawe an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in world cricket. Though they couldnt send their best team due to hectic schedule, the team they send is second to none. It will be a good if other big nations can send their teams as well to small cricket nations for development purpose. Well played Raza.Keep it going in the future matches as well

Posted by   on (July 24, 2013, 23:53 GMT)

@Venkat_Gowrishankar Pakistan are due to tour Zimbabwe soon enough if I'm not wrong and have been doing so. They have also been helping out Ireland and Afghanistan even though those series aren't normally aired. The problem lies with Australia, England and New Zealand mainly as they don't seem interested in supporting the minnows in cricket at all. We could at least expect South Africa to help out their African neighbours but doesn't seem so either. I guess it has a lot to do with their ego which is a shame even in this day and age. Hats off to India to send their team to Zimbabwe but would be better if they could send a full strength team (I understand that's difficult with their schedule) as it will help Zimbabwe cricketers improve by playing against the best.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2013, 21:07 GMT)

If Ireland, bangladesh,Netherlands and Zim chip in..plus with ICC help, A regular tournament can be held starring these teams!

Posted by Venkat_Gowrishankar on (July 24, 2013, 20:20 GMT)

"So if we do really well here, hopefully we'll have more cricket coming to us, which could only help us improve." - Dream on Buddy,

AUS, ENG and NZ are busy sorting out their political issues. I hope India Pak, SL and WI do their Bit to improve the situation. Hats off to India.

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