Taking flight to engineer Zimbabwe dreams

Taking flight to engineer Zimbabwe dreams

Sikandar Raza wanted to become a fighter pilot for Pakistan but fate had different plans for him

Taking flight to engineer Zimbabwe dreams

If everything had gone according to plan, Sikandar Raza would have been patrolling Pakistan’s borders in his fighter aircraft rather than battling the Indian cricket team as a member of the Zimbabwe squad.

Raza, born in Pakistan’s Sialkot, dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot and he was well on course to realising his dream but was diagnosed with an eye problem that afflicts seven out of 10 people. When his ambitions were crashed, he decided to become a software engineer and enrolled himself at the Caledonian University in Scotland.

After obtaining a degree one would have expected him to be developing programmes sitting in front of his PC but instead he chose to become a cricketer after what started as a pastime grew into a passion.

“I wanted to be a fighter pilot as a kid,” Raza told Deccan Herald after his practice session on Thursday. “There was an entrance exam and I think there were 10,000-odd students and only 60 were to be picked. I got lucky enough that I got picked for that, I was there for three and half years but when final medical came there was lens opacity which is basically blind spot in the eye. It only affects you when you are at such a height, but it hardly affects you in normal life.

“And when that didn’t happen, I wanted to be a software engineer so I went to Scotland for my degree. I managed to become a software engineer, got graduated in BSc software engineering… After that I had a good season in the UK and I spoke to my family and they said ‘yeah, that is something you can look at.’ And one thing led to another and every year I got better than before. I needed to stay in the system for three years and after that I managed to get that ODI call-up,” Raza, an off-spinner, recalled.

Street cricket

Apart from playing tape-ball cricket, Pakistan’s famous street cricket, Raza’s interest in cricket had been minimal. He never aspired to become an Imran Khan or a Wasim Akram growing up and is least sentimental talking about Pakistan’s cricket.  

“Growing up, street cricket was obviously there. Played lots of tape-ball cricket with my cousins... But I have never played any first-class cricket in Pakistan, so I never had that friendship circle. I started playing professional cricket only in 2007 (in Zimbabwe) and that’s when I went for further studies and came back to Zimbabwe. So, there wasn’t any strange feeling when I played against Pakistan,” said Raza, whose parents moved to Zimbabwe in 2002 and he joined them the following year, after completing his 11th grade. 

Raza fondly remembers his Test debut against the country of his birth in 2013 that came under rather strange circumstances. “I was the 12th man for that Test match against Pakistan,” he remembered.

“I turned up at the ‘nets’ and was just casually walking. I looked at my coach and he was panicking. He called me towards the ‘nets’ and he told me ‘you are playing today.’

Brendan Taylor has had a son and he has been with his family for the past few hours and he is not yet ready for the Test match, so you are playing in his place. So, that was it,” he said.

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