Raza delights in Pakistan homecoming

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

HE might not be able to meet some of his relatives due to the stringent Covid-19 protocols put in place by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), but Pakistan-born Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza is excited to be back in the land of his birth ahead of the limited-overs series between the two nations starting on Friday.

Raza was born in Sialkot, a city in the northeast of the Pakistani province of Punjab, where his dream was to become a fighter pilot.

However, a failed eye examination and his emigration to Zimbabwe with his parents in 2001 at the age of 15 saw him take a different fight with bat and ball.

The upcoming series marks the second time Raza has travelled back to the country of his birth with the Zimbabwe side in five years after the Chevrons became the first full member nation to visit Pakistan in 2015.

The 34-year-old all-rounder says despite now being fully committed to his adopted nation, who he will line up for during the upcoming One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) series, he has a special bond with the country of his birth.

“I have a special bond with Pakistan and it will always be like that. I have relatives over here and always feel good to be back in Pakistan. Things have changed due to Covid-19 protocols, but I must say that the PCB is looking after us really well. It should be a good series with Pakistan,” Raza told Cricket Pakistan.

Raza was one of the star performers for the Zimbabwe team during their previous tour of Pakistan five years ago in a largely competitive series.

The aggressive middle-order batsman scored an unbeaten 100 from 84 balls, hitting eight fours and three sixes in the second ODI that Pakistan won by six wickets with 16 balls left.

He is anticipating yet another competitive series and played down the absence of coach Lalchand Rajput, who did not accompany the Zimbabwe team due to the hostile relations between Pakistan and India.

“I personally think it is not a big loss that our head coach is not with us as we had worked on our plans before coming here. If there was a player missing, then it would have been a different story altogether,” he said.

Raza expressed confidence with the team’s preparations ahead of the tour and touted middle-order batsman Craig Ervine to be one of the better performers during the series.

“Before coming to Pakistan, we played three ODIs and three T20s as warm-up matches which went well. We are as prepared as we can in difficult times and we will also utilise the next 10 days to get our skills back up,” he said.

“We have good players in the squad, even though the results might not show that. I think, Craig Ervine will have a good series,” he said.

Raza also believes that his team is headed in the right direction, when asked about the dip in Zimbabwe’s performance in the recent past.

“I think we are heading in the right direction, but it’s easy for me to say that. I will talk to you after the series and I will ask you the same question about our team’s performance and direction,” he said.

The three ODIs, between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, are set to be played in Rawalpindi on Friday, November 1 and 3, while the three T20s would be held at the same venue on November 7, 8 and 10.

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