Raza gets special wishes from Zim teammate Sikandar Raza

MOHALI. — Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza is all set to make his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut this season. The prolific cricket all-rounder was roped in by Punjab Kings at his base price of Rs 50 lakh at the IPL 2023 auction.

He became just the fourth Zimbabwe cricketer to be signed by an IPL side. Brandon Taylor, Ray Price and Tatenda Taibu are the remaining three Zimbabwe cricketers who previously took part in the high-profile T20 tournament.

Ahead of the IPL 2023 season, which gets underway today, batter Ryan Burl shared a heartwarming note for his fellow Zimbabwe teammate Raza. “Go enjoy! There are 16 million Zimbabweans supporting,” Ryan tweeted sharing one of Raza’s post.

“It’s IPL time. See you soon Punjab Kings family, inshallah,” Raza had tweeted ahead of his maiden IPL outing.

Burl’s post triggered a buzz on Twitter as cricket fans lauded Sikandar Raza. They also did not forget to send best wishes to Raza.

Welcoming Raza to the IPL, one person commented, “Welcome to IPL. All the best. Welcome to India.”

“Sikandar Raza, our Punjabi brother is coming,” tweeted another person.

A certain cricket fan penned a touching note for Raza. “Good luck for the big game. Remember that there is no pressure and I am sure you will do fine. As long as you work hard and do your best, that is all that matters. Best of luck big brother,” the tweet read.

Another person optimistically predicted that Raza will be the “best all-rounder of IPL.”

“Go well champ. Cannot wait for your fireworks,” wrote a social media user.

 Raza showcased a dazzling display at the T20 World Cup last year. He also played a key role in guiding Lahore Qalandars to the Pakistan Super League (PSL) title this year. After playing 66 matches in T20Is, Raza has scored 1259 runs at a strike rate of 128.86. The 36-year-old has notched up six half-centuries in T20I cricket.

Punjab Kings are scheduled to kick off their IPL 2023 campaign with a match against Kolkata Knight Riders tomorrow. The Punjab-based franchise failed to qualify for the playoffs last time after finishing their IPL 2022 journey at the sixth spot. Ahead of the 16th season of IPL, Punjab team management decided to appoint Shikhar Dhawan as the new leader of the side.

Punjab Kings were dealt a big blow leading into the tournament with Jonny Bairstow ruled out as he continues to recover from a leg injury that he suffered in September last year while playing golf. Australia allrounder Matthew Short, who had an excellent BBL 2022-23 season where he was named Player of the Tournament, was named his replacement.

Kings will also be without Kagiso Rabada for at least their first match, against Kolkata Knight Riders tomorrow in Mohali. He will join the squad only on Monday, after completing South Africa’s ODI series against the Netherlands.

Liam Livingstone too will miss their first game, as he completes the final steps of his rehab following a knee injury that he picked on England’s Pakistan tour in December.

For starters, they have a new captain in Shikhar Dhawan, who has replaced Mayank Agarwal. Dhawan was bought at the 2022 auction and was Kings’ top-scorer last season with 460 runs in 14 innings.

Kings went into the 2023 auction with the second-largest purse of INR 32.2 crore and spent more than half of that on Englishman Sam Curran, making him the most expensive buy at an IPL auction. They also acquired Zimbabwean Raza for INR 50 lakh as back-up for Livingstone.

Punjab’s backroom staff has also undergone a complete overhaul. They brought in Trevor Bayliss as head coach in place of Anil Kumble, reappointed Wasim Jaffer as batting coach, brought in Sunil Joshi as the spin-bowling coach, and Charl Langeveldt as bowling coach. Brad Haddin was named assistant coach.

Even with Bairstow unavailable, Kings have a strong overseas contingent. His replacement Short was the second-highest run-getter in BBL 2022-23 and also picked up 11 wickets at an economy of 7.13. Livingstone and Bhanuka Rajapaksa were impressive last season while Raza comes in high on confidence having been part of the victorious Lahore Qalandars in PSL 2023, which capped an outstanding few months for him.

Kings have the likes of Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Curran forming the core of the pace attack. They also have allrounder Rishi Dhawan to back up the frontline seamers. The surfaces in Mohali and Dharamsala, Kings’ home grounds, have been conducive to pace in the past and the quicks could be a handful there. Kings boast of a power-packed batting unit. Livingstone has a career T20 strike rate of 146.11, Prabhsimran 137.94, Rajapaksa 135.52 and Jitesh Sharma 147.93. Dhawan has consistently been a quick accumulator of runs. — msn.com.

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