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Sikandar Raza pleased with Zimbabwe youngsters stepping up in absence of senior players

Zimbabwe handed ODI debuts to Victor Nyauchi, Brad Evans, Tony Munyonga and Clive Madande, as they beat Bangladesh 2-1

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
"One man doesn't win cricket matches - not ODIs anyway" - Sikandar Raza on his team's efforts  •  AFP/Getty Images

"One man doesn't win cricket matches - not ODIs anyway" - Sikandar Raza on his team's efforts  •  AFP/Getty Images

Zimbabwe not only winning the T20I and ODI series against Bangladesh but also achieving that while trying out new players was very encouraging for senior batter Sikandar Raza.
The hosts handed a debut to legspinner John Masara in the series-deciding third T20I, before giving ODI caps to medium-pace bowlers Victor Nyauchi and Brad Evans, spin-bowling allrounder Tony Munyonga, and wicketkeeper-batter Clive Madande during the course of the series.
"From a team perspective, the biggest positive is the amount of youngsters who played in this series," Raza said. "Some of our big names were missing. We don't get to play a lot of games, but the new guys did well as well. Tony played a quality cameo [in the second ODI], Victor bowled very well in the three games, Brad held his own, [and] Clive showed a glimpse of class."
Zimbabwe were missing regular captain Craig Ervine due to hamstring and knee injuries, allrounder Sean Williams for what Zimbabwe Cricket said were "personal matters", and pace bowlers Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara because of a tear in the thigh and a collarbone fracture, respectively.
To add to that, they suffered another blow when Regis Chakabva, named captain for the ODIs in absence of Ervine, was ruled out of the third ODI due to a sprained hand. That is when Raza stood in, with Zimbabwe fielding 17 players during the three-match series.
"All the senior players are missing due to injuries. No one has been rested," Raza said. "We are trying to bring a winning culture in the changing room. We have complained about Zimbabwe not playing a lot of games, so now that we are getting games, we didn't think of resting."
Raza led the way for his side with innings of 65 not out and 62 in the first two T20Is, and followed that up with back-to-back unbeaten knocks of 135 and 117 as Zimbabwe clinched the ODI series with a game to spare. But he felt that Innocent Kaia hitting 110 in the first ODI, and Chakabva cracking 102 off 75 balls in the second stood out, as much as pace bowler Luke Jongwe's vital contributions.
"One man doesn't win cricket matches - not ODIs anyway. The unsung hero that nobody is talking about is Luke Jongwe," Raza said. "He took the ball in difficult circumstances every game, he has bowled well. He has batted well too. He played an exceptional little cameo in the first ODI.
"You say that the focus is on me, but my focus is on the guys who have done well but not getting mentioned. Luke, Tony, Clive, Victor, [and] Bradley, who took the double-wicket [over] today [during the third ODI] - these things break the opposition's back."
He also believed that the new coach Dave Houghton bringing a level of calm and fearlessness to the side was something new in the Zimbabwe ranks.
"You have to be in the changing room to understand his value. It is no secret that he has done exceptionally well in a very short time," Raza said. "Dave has brought that fearless cricket with some accountability, and by not being reckless. He pointed out rightly today that we were slightly on the reckless side.
"Apart from that, he has managed us well. He has a lot of care, love and respect for the players. We have it for Dave Houghton anyway, but to see a Zimbabwean legend give love, time and respect back to the players, [and] speaking one on one, it is hard to put it in words."
He said that a big sign of Zimbabwe's improvement was seeing how Richard Ngarava and Nyauchi, Nos. 10 and 11, added 68 runs for the tenth wicket, with the hosts at 83 for 9 in pursuit of 257 in the third ODI.
"The fans kept singing. The brand of cricket that we are trying to encourage to play is fearless," Raza added. "It would have been easy for us to close shop at 130 for 8 [9], but we didn't want to do that.
"We want to believe genuinely that we can win a game from any position. To see our No. 10 and 11 put on a 68-run partnership is encouraging. I was telling the coach that you found your new No 5. I am happy to go down!"

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84