'Happy and humbled' Sikandar Raza caps dream year with IPL deal

"It was part of my thinking that before I hang my boots up, it would be nice to have the IPL on my CV"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Sikandar Raza has had a year to remember  •  Getty Images

Sikandar Raza has had a year to remember  •  Getty Images

Sikandar Raza has always wanted to be a busy cricketer. He has seen players around him traversing the globe, from one T20 league to another. He has always wanted to be one of them and now, he pretty much is. He has played in the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League, the Bangladesh Premier League and the Lanka Premier League, apart from domestic T20 tournaments in Afghanistan and Nepal. He is currently in Kathmandu to turn out for the Biratnagar Super Kings. Next month, he is scheduled to go to Dhaka for the BPL. And come March, he will be at the highest-profile franchise league of them all, having been snapped up by Punjab Kings today at the 2023 IPL auction.
The Zimbabwe allrounder, who has roots in Punjab, was quite excited at the prospect. "It was part of my thinking that before I hang my boots up, it would be nice to have the IPL on my CV," Raza told ESPNcricinfo. "Alhamdulillah (thank God) it has happened. I am really happy, humble and excited at the same time. I would have [been fine with] any franchise but to have a Punjabi munda in Punjab, it is 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 was online again, his turn had come and gone.
"I was in 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 was moving from one room to another, and the internet got disconnected.
"While it was connecting back again, I started getting 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 am checking but I haven't even been up there.
"What happened was, by the time I reconnected, I had gone already. So basically I didn't see the bid. Maybe that was a good thing actually. I reckon it's a good thing. If I was watching, I would have shouted in the meeting!"
This caps a stellar year for Raza, who has helped Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh in ODI and T20I series, scored a hundred against India, and secured a first win against Australia in Australia. Then came the Men's T20 World Cup, where they beat Pakistan in dramatic fashion. Raza was central to most of these big moments, both with bat and ball.
"It has been incredible. It has been life and career changing. Every time I have won a Player-of-the-Match trophy, I kiss my mum's hand and give her the trophy. The best part of these few months is that I have handed her over a lot of trophies. I think the trophy cabinet is full now. To sum it up, I would say that making my parents proud has been the highlight."
And the on-field highlights? "The top three would be the hundred against India, and beating Ireland and Pakistan in the T20 World Cup," Raza said, after much thinking.
All this on the back of Zimbabwe having to fight for a place in the T20 World Cup via a qualifying tournament, and Raza not being in the right state of mind just months ago. A video call with new coaching director Dave Houghton, Raza said, proved to a be a major turning point.
"Without going into too many details, I wasn't enjoying my cricket. My first meeting with Dave Houghton was via a WhatsApp video call. I was in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. That one meeting changed a lot of things for me. I was expecting a firm order that 'I want you back on this day.'
"But all he said was, 'Son, you are playing cricket. Make sure you win the trophy. Enjoy it. I will see you when you come back'. That's all he said to me, and it changed a lot of things in my mind. It was a turning point. Dave Houghton has played a huge role."
Now, Raza is exactly where he wants to be in his cricket career, and he plans to soak it all in. "I used to see other cricketers go from one league to another, and on to another. Allah has given me this opportunity, so I will not complain about anything - the wicket, weather or changing environment, culture and changing room. I will just be grateful, which makes everything else easier."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84