Sikandar Raza Butt
April 24, 1986, Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Sikandar Raza's story isn't that of your everyday international cricketer. He is not a teenage prodigy, nor is he someone who had a burning ambition to play for his country. He journeyed through from his adolescence to adulthood and stumbled upon the sport he sometimes played as a child, only to discover he is quite good at it.
Born in Sialkot in the northeast of Pakistan, Sikandar had told his parents when he was 11 years old that he wanted to be a fighter pilot. He wrote the exam that got him into Air Force college. He was one of 60 to have won a place among 60,000 applicants. But in his third year, he failed an eye test. He was told that 7 out of 10 people have the problem in normal life, but for him a dream was shattered.
Not dissuaded, Sikandar got admitted to Glasgow Caledonian University, where he picked up cricket as a semi-professional. He moved to Zimbabwe, where his parents had resided since 2002, and he made his first-class debut in 2007. He made one half-century in nine innings before completing his studies and returning to full-time cricket in the 2010-11 season. He had a more fruitful time, scoring 625 runs at an average of 41.
The following season was again decent as he developed a reputation as an aggressive top-order batsman. Sikandar kept doing well in the one-day and Twenty20 competitions at the time, so it was natural for the selectors to turn to him for a practice match against the visiting Bangladeshis in 2011 when Vusimuzi Sibanda was injured. He did well, and it became clear that he had a future in Zimbabwe colours.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) began a process to get him the necessary papers that would qualify him to play for the country and in May 2013, he made his international debut for Zimbabwe, in the first ODI against Bangladesh, thus becoming the 116th player to appear for Zimbabwe in the format. Four months later, he made his Test debut too, against Pakistan in Harare. By the time the 2015 World Cup rolled around, Sikandar was firmly settled into his role as the most adventurous batsman in Zimbabwe's top order, with a fondness for carving the ball through - and sometimes over - point, and a useful side line as an offspinner.
He played a pivotal role in one of Zimbabwe's most memorable moments on a cricket field, winning the deciding ODI against Sri Lanka with a crucial cameo in a pressure situation chasing 204 on a turning track in Hambantota in July 2017. Before batting, he had helped restrict Sri Lanka in that game with what was his best figures in ODI cricket: 3 for 21 in 10 overs. The result? Zimbabwe had won a five-match ODI series away from home for the first time.
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