'Obstacles motivate me'
Since debuting on the international stage in 2013 through an ODI against Bangladesh in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza has demonstrated his fighting prowess, on and off the field, time and again. The 36-year-old, who is enjoying a phenomenal run of form of late, keeps scaling greater heights with each passing game at an age when most good quality cricketers go into decline. Raza shared his views about his and side's game, also how he views the current Bangladesh team and more, in an interview with The Daily Star's Ekush Tapader, the excerpts of which are as follows:
The Daily Star (DS): How do you feel after such top performances? How important is it for Zimbabwe cricket?
Sikandar Raza (SR): Of course, it feels nice to finally have these performances given by the team. I mean, we've always played this cricket but maybe not consistently enough, and to be able to play a consistent type of cricket is really rewarding and humbling to see.
Because we've won the series, the T20s and the ODI series as well, what it'll do is create that winning culture in the changing room and it'll give us that belief that regardless of the situation what we find ourselves in when we're playing the game, there's always a way out and we'll find a better way to win the game.
DS: Zimbabwe were missing several top players. How do you motivate yourself to beat an experienced side like Bangladesh?
SR: Of course, we were missing key players. But for me, how do I motivate myself is that if I can help the team to give hundred per cent and guide them, then I should do that, so that is motivation enough.
DS: How do rate this Bangladeshi side you are facing?
SR: You guys are saying Bangladesh have been performing consistently in ODIs, which they were, but I do think they are still performing consistently as well. They scored 303 and 291, these are good scores. I think you guys are putting too much focus on trying to be negative about Bangladesh but I think it's not that. I think they still played good enough cricket. But I believe the credit has to be given to Zimbabwe as Zimbabwe actually ended up playing a lot better than the opposition. I think that's where the focus should be. No answer I give will disrespect that part that Bangladesh remains a powerhouse in world cricket.
DS: Zimbabwe is playing fearless cricket. How important is the role of coach Dave Houghton for this approach?
SR: I think Zimbabwe is playing fearless cricket, and was playing fearless cricket as well. But sometimes, not so smart. So I think, we're trying to encourage the fearless part with the smart part and try and know what needs to be done and at what time, and what are the individual's strengths. The biggest focus is to put team's needs first before your own needs.
Of course, it's nice to qualify [for the T20 World Cup] and to win [against Bangladesh] and go to Australia. We really worked hard and I think the difference has been to work a lot smarter as well. The new coach [Dave Houghton] has played a huge role. Zulu [Lance Klusener] has come back and played a huge role as well.
DS: You had serious health-related concerns last year, having gone through a major surgery. Do you feel like you've got a new life?
SR: The time, when the surgery was due, was scary. Have I got a new life? I certainly believe that. But in cricket? No, I don't really. There's far more important things in life than cricket. So, Alhamdulillah, to be alive, to be healthy and to be around my family. Obstacles motivate me, if you think positively.