BULAWAYO — Zimbabwe cricket team all-rounder Sikandar Raza accepts that the match against Afghanistan will be a grudge affair and expects careers to be on the line if the team doesn’t qualify for the World Cup.
With a few of the Zimbabwe players closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, the 31-year-old batting all-rounder, wants a “last hurrah” for the team at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier and then, if all goes well, at the main event next year. If not, he says, “What will be, will be, brother”.
“A few us will be playing our last World Cup and I think the least we can do for each other is try and give everything we have in the tank for every game we play,” Raza, who felt it was a blessing for the team to be playing the qualifier at home, said.
“If it happens, at least we can leave Zimbabwe Cricket with our heads held high. My first goal is to leave this beautiful game in better shape that I found it in.”
Zimbabwe have seen plenty of action recently, but their last outing didn’t go well as they lost a five-match one-day international series to Afghanistan 4-1 in Sharjah last month.
Afghanistan are in the same qualifying group as Zimbabwe — Group B, along with Hong Kong, Nepal and Scotland — and the game between the two sides could well be very significant in the first round. Raza didn’t shy away from calling it a “grudge match”.
“Let’s not shy away from that. You know as kids if you’ll remember playing with a friend or with your brother and that other guy might be leading with a 10-1, and you say the one who scores that last score wins. I think the previous scores, I’ll call it deuce, because that will put us in good shape to qualify for the World Cup and right now that’s exactly what we’re looking at.
“Not just the Afghans, I think to me every match is a great match. If we qualify, that will change a lot of things for better, for us as individuals, for our families. The country is going through a positive change as well, that will give a lot of people, if not everyone, something to smile about, something to believe, something to hope for. God forbid, if things don’t work out well, careers could also be on the line.”
Raza was a part of the Zimbabwe team at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Raza was a part of the Zimbabwe team at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Keeping that in mind, Raza stressed that looking back over past defeats was not beneficial to the team.
“I think that is behind us. What’s important for me now is what lies ahead. The main thing is that we have learned from our mistakes sincerely, and we certainly have. And we would like to go together forward as a team.”
Raza had a couple of impressive performances in Sharjah, and the 74-ball 92 he scored in the second game — when Brendan Taylor hit 125 — went a long way to giving Zimbabwe their only win.
“Physically and mentally, yes, I’m definitely in good shape,” he said.
“I think trusting myself — my teammates have always trusted me — and preparing a lot better than I used to . . . I think being experienced definitely plays a huge role as well.
“I’ve been with the team for some time now, so experience of travelling with the team and playing constantly helps. Learning from the mistakes, trying to become a better cricketer every day drives me to basically improve in all the aspects of life.”
Zimbabwe’s first match in the CWCQ is against Nepal in Bulawayo tomorrow.