Zimbabwe’s Raza relishing chance to play alongside AB De Villiers

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By Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE national cricket team allrounder Sikandar Raza is relishing the opportunity of playing alongside South African superstar AB de Villiers in the ongoing Mzansi Super League which will run until December 16.

Raza, who recently completed his comeback to the national team during the Bangladesh tour, left for South Africa on Tuesday with compatriot Sean Williams after they were signed by the Tshwane Spartans last month.

The Zimbabwean duo will link up with their teammates who include former South African skipper AB de Villiers, England limited overs captain Eoin Morgan, as well as the Proteas duo of fast bowler Lungi Ngidi and batsmen Dean Elgar.

The other local player who will feature in the tournament include leg spinner Brandon Mavuta, who will turn out for Durban Heat.

Raza spoke of his excitement to be sharing a dressing room with the iconic De Villiers saying he wants to learn as much as he can from a living legend and enhance his own game.

De Villiers has been ranked among the top Test and ODI batsmen in the world and has established a cult-like following in T20 cricket, where his performances in the Indian Premier League have earned him a legion of Indian fans.

“I am looking to gain experience and knowledge,” Raza said. “I will be sharing dressing room with one of the legends of the game – AB de Villiers. For me it can’t get any better than that.”

“Just to be in that changing room, listening to him and just to chat with him and brainstorm. If you can do well in such leagues, the experience will speak a lot about you and open other doors for you.”

The Mzansi Super League presents another opportunity for Raza to showcase his talent in the shortest format of the game after he featured in the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates in October.

He has already been signed up to return to the Bangladesh Premier League early next year and is also hoping to get picked in the Pakistan Super League draft later this week.

“The APL played a huge part in my preparation for the Bangladesh tour and for me to be considered in different leagues,” said Raza.

“APL was good for me. I managed a few good performances with bat and ball. That was great. Luckily, I got retained by Chittagong Vikings so I will be going back to the Bangladesh Premier League so that is also good news.”

“I like to feel optimistic about the Pakistan Super League but I like to be realistic. Maybe there is an outside chance (of getting picked). I hope my performances in international cricket and league cricket… you never know who is watching you. Hopefully one team ends up picking you.”

The dynamic batsman insists franchise cricket will not take him away national duties, reiterating his passion to represent Zimbabwe first.

“As long as there is international cricket with Zimbabwe, I will not be considering T20 leagues. If you are asking whether I will be prioritising league cricket over Zimbabwe, the answer is no.

“A lot of good people have done a lot of great work behind the scenes for me to come back into the national team and to rectify my contract. Once a lot of people have put faith in you, you don’t want to disappoint them or make the same mistakes. Everything is good, the relation is great.”

In September, Raza resolved his dispute with the Zimbabwe board and was included in the squads for the Test and ODI tour of Bangladesh in October-November.

Zimbabwe lost the ODI series 3-0 but Raza made fine contributions of 49 and 40, along with a spell of 3-43 with his off-spin.

However, it was in Tests that Raza played a key role with ball in hand in the first game as Zimbabwe registered their first away Test win in 17 years, with the all-rounder picking up six wickets in the match.

“Walking back into the national team and resolving my matters with Zimbabwe Cricket was the best thing that happened to me in 2018. There were many good people, including players, who went out of their way to get the matter resolved,” Raza said.

 “We managed to produce some decent performances in Bangladesh. Disappointed we couldn’t pull off an ODI win. A lot was riding on my shoulders, coming back into international cricket after the World Cup Qualifiers. When we managed to win the first (away) Test in 17 years, it was a great show,” he said.