There are times where cricket deserves some honest reflection by the fan. Times like these, where we are holed in our houses, desperately wanting live-action to resume.
So there couldn’t be a better time to ask this.
Could it be that in our love for the biggies of the sport- which is so understandable- amid times where India, England, or Australia nearly play all the time- we haven’t really followed the others?
If you are a doting fan, then how come your universe is often composed of a trajectory that (possibly) begins and ends with a Virat Kohli to Pat Cummins, or Joe Root to Steve Smith, or Ben Stokes to Mitchell Starc, with all due respect?
Are the others not playing?
In an age where cricket is finding new fans around the globe, exploring new rules, where the likes of Mithali Raj, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine have fan-groups on social media- are you really following world cricket or just sticking to the big names?
If so, then you ought to be reminded that your patriotic, “stick-to-the-region” only sensibilities, pleasured considerably by a couch surfing existence, aren’t letting you focus on the newsmakers and tide-breakers that form cricket’s wider world.
There’s no fun in wanting to be a cricket tragic, but opting to remain just another fan.
You aren’t doing yourself a favor by not following the exploits of a champion of the game who goes by the name of Sikandar Raza.
Sikandar Raza isn’t some ICC table-topping name. He’s not someone who breaks the internet.
Yet, in a game where all are counting on their talents to reach the skies, this is a 34-year-old who’s actually living out the meaning of his name.
Sikandar Raza Butt, exactly 158 international appearances old, is the maker of his destiny, the ‘Sikandar’ of his own life.
Yet, what if you were told that he may not have been doing anything he is with that characteristic vein of passion if destiny had let him follow the path to his original dream.
In a game of glorious uncertainties, there couldn’t have been anything sufficiently uncertain than the way Sikandar Raza’s tale unfurled.
A failed eye test cast him away from the path of following his original dream: to be an aviator.
Instead of being heartbroken, he took to the sport.
Here he is today.
One of the pillars of Zimbabwean cricket, Sikandar Raza is a sure-shot fourth concrete pillar among the ‘Big Four’ of Zimbabwe, adding power to a trinity comprising Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, and Brendon Taylor.
But what if you were told it wasn’t even certain that Sikandar Raza would represent Zimbabwe?
Well, what if the famous stint with the renowned Glasgow Caledonian University had not panned out the way it did?
In many ways, Sikandar Raza is the true example of how globalization lends itself exceptionally to a sport, proving that for as long as one has passion and above all, a distinct will to succeed, a man from the northeast of Pakistan can proudly go on to wear a bright-red jersey of a country situated millions of miles away.
And he must be credited, above anything, for taking the plunge toward the great unknown; for leaving the comfort of home behind in opting for an unchartered territory.
And make no mistake.
Raza’s tale also tells us why cricket succeeds not only on turning tracks or at the back of a match-winning spell.
It proves what success in the game- one that belongs to the matter of the mind and the beat of the heart- is the ability to play a part in a collective.
Being constantly engaged in reviving a cricketing culture that once punched its weight during the days of the great David Houghton and the Flower brothers is as credit-worthy as the joy of re-running your favorite game on YouTube.
Imagining Zimbabwe without Sikandar Raza today would be imagining the team minus its beating heart.
The man whose back-breaking spell of 7 for 113 safeguarded his team from the possibility of a near-certain whitewash against Sri Lanka, on Zimbabwe’s home.
Moments before, he had struck a vital fifty courtesy a much-timely 72 (days before his dream spell, he had taken a 3-for along with a 41 in the First Harare Test).
The man whose solo heroics nearly took his side toward qualification for the 2019 World Cup, where excellently gripping contributions- 319 runs and 15 wickets- nearly toppled the UAE before the Duckworth Lewis-affected outcome turned the tables on Zimbabwe.
In that game, Raza emerged with 3 for 41 off his 10 before going on to hit a flamboyant 34 off just 26.
How many times have cricketers turned up as the voice of the voiceless?
Paras Khadka, who loathed the lack of opportunities sides like Nepal get to contest thanked Sikandar Raza for stating the fact that there should be equal opportunities for ICC associate nations to show their repertoire.
Raza doesn’t jump around or makes strange faces rubbing his victories on the face of the others; he remains content in playing a part for Zimbabwe’s fightback.
Back then, Zimbabwe, just like Scotland, missed the absolute lack of DRS in the series.
But how many of us cried our hearts out for them?
What’s easy is to get carried away.
It takes mighty courage to emerge unhurt and continue to persevere.
Sikandar Raza’s beauty stems from the fact that he’s unaffected by outcomes.
He’s not into the histrionics. Wearing bling, coloring hair or slipping verbals isn’t him. Match-winning performances that offer much-wanted respect to Zimbabwe state his very existence.
He didn’t hold himself back then from the 2018 fiasco. An assignment in the famous Bangladesh Premier League was in the pipeline.
And where much of the world currently sits awaiting as if an embargo is to be lifted off the game, Zimbabwe’s lion-hearted trier of things and doer of magic is awaiting his maiden stint with the Peshawar Zalmi, in the PSL.
When that happens, it would be an occasion to savor, just as it was when one of their own will play in Pakistan, which would be a telling opposite to the events of 2013, when he debuted against his own homeland at Harare, contributing immediately with a crafty and long 164-minute outing with the bat for his 60.
Yet at all these times, reminding that nationality and teams matter less in front of the zest for the sport.
Which is why Sikandar Raza- already over 100 international wickets and 4,000 runs- is here.
The bloke who exemplifies what we don’t often find in our so-called stars; those with records but not that ability to persist with equanimity, unsullied by defeats, unflattered by victories.
Hence, we must salute Sikandar Raza and team, who are fighting for the cause of the very identity that plunged to desperate lows in losing the ICC status and are back fighting it out in the international sphere again.