BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE cricket team allrounder Sikandar Raza has attributed his recent rich vein of form to “hard and smart work” that he has been putting on his game in his quest to remain at the top of his game.
The 35-year-old aggressive middle order batsman has been in arguably the best form of his career in recent months, putting on consistent performances with both bat and ball both locally and abroad.
Raza was named the Player of the Tournament in the Pro50 Championship after a remarkable campaign with the losing finalists Southern Rocks.
Having averaged 75.60 runs in the three matches he played in the Logan Cup; Raza was the second highest run scorer in the Pro50 Championship after plundering 283 runs in eight matches at an average of 47.16.
Now the Chevrons star has continued his red-hot form in the ongoing Dhaka Premier League in Bangladesh.
Last week Raza scored his first century in Bangladesh as he almost single handedly led Shinepukur Cricket Club to an upset victory against the defending champions Abahani Limited before narrowly coming short.
The 35-year-old middle order batsman was delighted to reach a century after coming up agonisingly short in the previous encounter when he was dismissed for 98 against Prime Bank Cricket Club in Savar.
“It has been a great experience so far and even feels better to be doing well in tough conditions and in prestigious domestic competition such as the Dhaka Premier League,” Raza said in an interview with The Sports Hub from his Bangladesh base.
“It was really amazing to get my first century in Bangladesh. Abahani are the defending champions and they have a lot of quality cricketers so to be able to score a century against them certainly feels good. Prime bank is also a top top side and currently ranked number two on the charts and would have been nice to get a 100 against them too but unfortunately only managed 98,” he said.
Raza has been in brilliant form with the bat in this year’s Dhaka Premier League. In addition to his century and 98 in the last two matches he also managed scores of 42 and 74 not-out in his first two matches.
Although Shinepukur are in eighth position on the 11-team Dhaka Premier League log standings with just two wins in their first six matches, the Zimbabwean is currently the fourth highest leading scorer with 344 runs from six matches at an impressive average of 68.80.
So what has been his secret?
“There isn’t any secret to my good form really,” Raza said. “Its hard work plus smart work. I feel working hard without doing it smartly isn’t good enough. So, I try to prepare accordingly and Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) it’s been going well so far,” he said.
Raza’s next target now is to help his side reach the Super League stage before he turns his focus to international duty with the Chevrons, who have a busy schedule in the lead up to the ICC T20 World Cup qualifiers in July.
“It would be great to win a few more games with the team and qualify for the Super League. Internationally the target is to qualify for the T20 World Cup in July In sha Allah (God willing), then for the 50 overs World Cup,” he said.
Raza was born in Sialkot in the northeast of Pakistan, and immigrated to Zimbabwe in 2002 along with his family at the age of 16.
He soon established himself as one of the top players in the domestic competition and caught the eye of the Zimbabwe selectors before being called up to the national team in 2013.
Since then he rose to become one of the country’s top cricketers, featuring in 111 One Day Internationals (ODIs), 42 T20Is and 17 Tests. A dedicated, hardworking, and disciplined sportsman, his passion for the game has managed to take him to several different leagues around the world.
Raza has sights on helping Zimbabwe qualify for the 2023 World Cup after the team missed out on qualification for the previous edition of the global tournament.