Once a fighter pilot hopeful, Pak-born Raza rues his near miss
It wasn't as if Sikandar Raza needed more motivation, but a handful of fans wearing 'Team Raza' t-shirts and making the loudest noise at the Harare Sports Club spurred the Zimbabwe batsman on.
They were Raza's brother, cousins and friends, egging him on to score his maiden century. The opener seemed well on his way until a rush of blood dashed his hopes. The Pakistan-born player swiped at leg-spinner Amit Mishra's googly, only to be bowled for 82.
Head hung in disappointment, the 27-year-old walked back cursing himself. And it would hurt him more once the game got over. "A friend of mine asked me, 'How did it feel when Virat (Kohli) got his hundred?' That question stung me. I will remember that for the rest of my life. I'm not going to find these opportunities a lot, so when I do, I'm going to have to make sure I convert them."
Raza migrated with his family as a 15-year-old in 2002, but the Zimbabwe cap didn't come easily. Strict government rules made it tough for him to get citizenship and left him frustrated. At one point, he even contemplated giving up cricket.
He had already faced one big disappointment when he had to give up his childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot after failing an eye test. "At first when I learnt I had to wait for four more years I was disheartened. But my grandfather and father were very supportive, urging me to continue working hard. Patience has finally paid off," said Raza.
He finally made his international debut in May against Bangladesh, but was not able to convert starts. The India series is important for him and he wants to make the most of it.
"I'll definitely be in the nets after this press conference. I've got a few areas to brush up to ensure I give myself a similar opportunity again."
Does his Pakistan heritage motivate him while playing against India? "Look, I treat every country with respect. I want do well whether I am playing against India or Bangladesh. I had to wait for a long time to don Zimbabwe colours. Now I want to make the best use of it."