All-rounder Sikandar Raza needs no introduction as he has become the flag bearer of Zimbabwe cricket. Having already played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the last season, Raza is sharp and does not mince his words. During the last season of the cash-rich league, he was roped in by the Punjab Kings (PBKS). Raza who is currently featuring in the ILT20 league for the Dubai Capitals, which is undergoing in the UAE, spoke to SportsNow in an exclusive chat and talked about his preparation for the upcoming IPL.
“There is no better preparation than to be playing cricket. So, ILT20, of course, is a high-standard league. I am going to play PSL from here. I am looking forward to that PSL. So, you know, my preparation leading to IPL will be playing ILT20 and PSL and that. I mean, you cannot substitute game time. I think that should be the best preparation one can have before an IPL,” Raza said in an exclusive interview to SportsNow.
According to Raza, IPL is different from every other franchise leagues. It’s the biggest festive cricket festival on the planet that happens. “I just think that the availability of all the players for one tournament makes IPL really special. In most of the matches we play, the crowd comes and supports their teams. That’s something that’s really different in IPL. The only other league when it comes to crowd that comes close to IPL is PSL. So, I think IPL definitely stands out with a couple of factors, yes,” Raza stated.
IPL is by far the best league in the world: Sikandar Raza
Like IPL, there are other countries that started conducting T20 tournaments such as Australia which has BBL, West Indies has CPL, and Pakistan has PSL. When it comes to the best league out of all, Raza said, “IPL is by far the best league when it comes to PSL also. Like, it is much better than PSL. That’s what I'm trying to say. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of comparisons. But yes, it is. I think IPL is the biggest league on the planet.”
After being asked about any particular player or franchise that Raza wants to play for, he said, “No, IPL is such a big and global event that I am very grateful and blessed that Punjab picked me. And I don't think I can ever repay their faith. I mean, they were the only team that raised the baton on the auction day. So, if they hadn’t done that, I don't think I would have been part of IPL last year, let alone this year. So, no, man. Being part of the IPL is a wonderful experience. And I am very grateful and humbled by the fact that Punjab has picked me. So, there is no particular franchise that I am dreaming of playing or one particular player that I want to play with. As long as I am playing good cricket, that’s all that matters to me.”
Sikandar Raza is currently plying his trade in the ILT20 league which is going on in the UAE. The Zimbabwe-based player is representing Dubai Capitals which is led by David Warner.
“My last year was my first year with ILT20 and of course with Dubai Capitals as well. So, this year my stint in ILT20 and Dubai Capitals experience is much better. I think last year being the first year, you know, you make a lot of relations with people. And they understand you and you understand them and things like that. But once you are retained, one that shows a lot of faith that the franchise has in you. So, it gives you a lot of peace. It gives you a lot of confidence. And when it comes to the management and when it comes to the players as well, I’ve got a very good relationship with everybody in the management. And I’m very grateful for that. So, all in all, it’s been great,” Sikandar added.
‘David Warner allows you to get the best out of you’
After being asked about Warner’s leadership finesse, he said, “No, no, no. I mean, David is quite big on the fact that we all know that, you know, we all have got here with the skill sets. That we have. All we have to do is use the same skill sets according to the conditions that are presented to us. So, no I wouldn’t say that he is strict and he wants things to be done his way. He allows you to have your field sets when you are bowling. He allows you to bat the way you think it will get the best out of you. David is pretty chill like that. And also, like, for the fact that we all know that you have been playing franchise cricket for so long.”
When it comes to franchise cricket, most of the international cricketers are opting out from central contracts. Speaking about his plans, Raza said, “No, for as long as there is strength and there is focus and there is fitness that I have, I will remain committed to Zimbabwe. I am happy to miss out on franchise tournaments because I have international commitments. But I will not turn my back on Zimbabwe now.”
Raza who is also leading the Zimbabwe side in the shortest format of the game has helped his team win the game on many occasions both with the bat and the ball. Now that he is the captain, he feels that he does not have any added pressure.
“Yeah, I don’t see it that way. I mean, pressure is always there. There is only one way to find out if I can take that extra responsibility and that is for me to get that extra responsibility. So, I don’t see it that way. But just overall, the quality and the standard of cricket we are trying to consistently play now suddenly is getting better. And it’s a work in progress. But I can assure you that myself and the Zimbabwe cricket have got together. And we have drawn a pathway that will put Zimbabwe back on the map pretty quickly.”
Raza is close to 37 years of age and he is still very energetic on the field. According to him, success is not meant for just younger people. “The motivation that I have is that I want to have my own sort of legacy, Alhamdulillah. And also, I want to sort of...I want to destroy the myth that success is only for young people,” Raza confided.
“I have left my plans to be decided by Allah. And Allah has the best timing. So, I will let Allah decide, Alhamdulillah, what's best for me. And whatever direction Allah chooses me to go in, I will happily take that,” Raza signed off.