Sikandar Raza’s story isn’t that of your everyday international cricketer. He is not a teenage prodigy, nor is he someone who had a burning ambition to play for his country. He journeyed through from his adolescence to adulthood and stumbled upon the sport he sometimes played as a child, only to discover he is quite good at it.
Born in Sialkot in the northeast of Pakistan, Sikandar had told his parents when he was 11 years old that he wanted to be a fighter pilot. He wrote the exam that got him into Air Force college. He was one of 60 to have won a place among 60,000 applicants. But in his third year, he failed an eye test. He was told that 7 out of 10 people have the problem in normal life, but for him a dream was shattered.
Not dissuaded, Sikandar got admitted to Glasgow Caledonian University, where he picked up cricket as a semi-professional. He moved to Zimbabwe, where his parents had resided since 2002, and he made his first-class debut in 2007. He made one half-century in nine innings before completing his studies and returning to full-time cricket in the 2010-11 season. He had a more fruitful time, scoring 625 runs at an average of 41.
The following season was again decent as he developed a reputation as an aggressive top-order batsman. Sikandar kept doing well in the one-day and Twenty20 competitions at the time, so it was natural for the selectors to turn to him for a practice match against the visiting Bangladeshis in 2011 when Vusimuzi Sibanda was injured. He did well, and it became clear that he had a future in Zimbabwe colours.
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