Raza: You patriot!…Pakistani immigrant proves to be more Zimbabwean than Zimbos

The Chronicle

Simba Jemwa, Sports Correspondent
HE reminds Zimbabweans – all Zimbabweans – of who they are, and where they now find themselves: one country – one nation, and almost certainly one more spectacular tournament to attend – but more than anything else – he has proved to all that he is a loyal, patriotic superstar whose passion for the national team, his adopted country and the sport is unmatched.

For all intents and purposes, Raza, who could play for his country of origin, Pakistan (only after he takes a two year sabbatical), has always elected to stay and fight for the Zimbabwean flag with his adopted brothers – he is an athlete who willingly sacrifices it all for his country.

Throughout his career, he has never backed down from a fight, has never left the trenches to have a cuppa and has always given his life for the Chevrons.

And to think Raza only made his ODI debut for Zimbabwe in May 2013 against Bangladesh and scored 3 runs batting at number three, thus becoming the 116th player to appear for Zimbabwe in the format.

The delay being an administrative issue concerning the country’s immigration laws.

Yet he waited, bided his time and eventually got his chance and grabbed it by the scruff of its neck! So hard did he grab it that a man who wakes up from a decade long coma would think him more Zimbabwean than the other players who were born and raised in Zimbabwe.

During the just ended ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B tournament, the 36-year-old Pakistani immigrant was the rock the coach, Dave Houghton, needed.

And he will need him again later this year when the Chevrons pack their bags for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held in Australia.

This is how it feels to be in the company of someone special.

In mid-June this year, Zimbabwe cricket announced Houghton’s return to the Chevrons as head coach and his first assignment was to see to it that Zimbabwe qualified for the World Cup in Australia.

He knew that he had many sceptical minds to change, and some wounded hearts win over.

He soon met with his players who included the Chevrons Pakistani import, Sikandar Raza Butt – by everyone’s reckoning, one of the few big names who bother to show up when the team needs heroes and fighters.

If there was an unspoken certainty about Houghton’s otherwise top-secret plan for the qualification tournament in Bulawayo, it was that Raza would be his go-to guy.

Houghton will have felt this way about a man whose loyalty to Zimbabwe has never been called into question – on September 3, Raza will mark nine years of unquestioned service to Zimbabwe.

Over the years, he must have felt let down by a system that, at the time, seemed to will itself to lose matches. Born in Sialkot, in the Punjabi-speaking Kashmiri region of Pakistan, Raza emigrated to Zimbabwe with his family in 2002.

Raza has always played like he wanted to give back to the country that had provided refuge for his family when he was 16, and all he had done was lose a lot of the time alongside his Chevrons teammates.

Where was the honour in that?

“Zimbabwe gave my family everything,” Raza can be imagined to say if asked.

This is a man who has refused to turn his back on his adopted country like other senior and experienced players who abandoned Zimbabwe for country cricket at the first sign of trouble.

Raza studied at the Pakistan Air Force Public School Lower Topa for three years and aspired to be a Pakistan Air Force pilot, but his dreams were cut short when he failed a vision test that was mandatory for the selection in Pakistan Airforce at that time.

His family arrived in Zimbabwe and ultimately settled in Harare, where they still live.

“When somebody gives you that much love, you have to return it,” would be the obvious thought in Raza’s head.
Houghton will have been taken in by the intensity of Raza’s desire as much as his play.

In their first game together, a first-round encounter against Singapore in the opening match of the qualification tournament at Queens Sports Club, Raza produced a man-of-the-match innings as he struck 87 off 40 balls to guide Zimbabwe to victory over Singapore.

Raza’s presence surely made an impression on Houghton that was both immediate and lasting. The new coach will have sensed that he was in the company of someone special.

And special he is – after a disappointing 18 runs from 21 balls in the second match against Jersey, Raza was at his best again when his team faced the United States of America in the final group stage match.

This was yet another man-of-the-match performance from the very loyal and patriotic foreigner who scored 82 off 40 deliveries as Zimbabwe won by 46 runs.

He did not stop there; he took on the Netherlands and defeated them! Though he was 19 off 14 balls with the bat, Raza was unplayable with the ball, taking 4 for 8. He got the man-of-the-match gong, again!

And player of the tournament to boot!

“When the big moments come, people like that are going to come through,” Houghton must have thought to himself as he watched Raza almost single-handedly propel Zimbabwe to Australia.

Raza came through again and again during Zimbabwe’s remarkable World Cup qualifying run.

He shouted at the standing crowd after, beating his chest hard enough to imperil a heart even the size of his.

Houghton and his team of selectors must know, and they do know, that Raza should be the first man on the team sheet because his patriotic zeal and passion for Zimbabwe gives them a fighting chance .

Patriotism is difficult to quantify, but a Raza with a bat and ball is a close definition of love, devotion and a sense of attachment for one’s country.

— @RealSimbaJemwa

Article Source: The Chronicle

Enjoyed this post? Share it!