HARARE – IF THINGS had turned out differently, Sikandar Raza would have been spending his days as a fighter pilot defending Pakistan’s skies.
As it is, he lined-up for Zimbabwe against India at the World Cup.
Raza’s journey from Pakistan to opening the batting for Zimbabwe, via Scotland, was a curious one.
Born in Sialkot, Raza spent over three years at the Pakistan Air Force boarding school in Lower Topa, before failing a highly particular vision test.
“I wanted to be a fighter pilot as a kid and there was an entrance exam,” he says.
“There were over 10 000 students and only 60 were to be picked. I was lucky enough that I got picked. I was there for three-and-half years, but when the final medical came there was a lens opacity which is basically a blind spot in the eye.
“It is such that it only affects you when you are at altitude, but you hardly notice it in normal life.”
Raza moved with his family to Zimbabwe in 2002, but it wasn’t until he went to university in Scotland that he started playing serious cricket.
While a BSc student in computer science at Glasgow Caledonian University, Raza played semi-professional cricket and steadily realised that he was better at the sport than he originally thought.
“I had a good season in the UK. I spoke to my family and they said, ‘Yeah, that is something you can look at’. One thing led to another, and every year I got better than before,” he says.
Raza returned to Zimbabwe and began playing domestic cricket.
“I never thought of playing cricket internationally at that point in time. That feeling came only when I got picked by one of the franchises and I had a good year,” he says.
“When you start performing, suddenly there is a bit of a high, there is talk and then you start thinking ‘maybe there is a chance’. You take that chance, you just do your best and there’s not much you can do after that.”
He was pleased with his involvement in the World Cup, but less than satisfied.
“It’s one thing to play in the World Cup, but what’s more important is to look at how it went as a team,” he says.
“If there’s any area we have lacked strength in, it’s our opening partnership and the opening pair. I can actually take half the blame for it, I have actually let myself and my team down in that department.
“But having said that, the most important thing for us is to go back, work hard and move forward.
“The experience has been great, but I think there have been a few areas where I could have done well and left a mark.”