Raza Applauds Zimbabawe’s Young Guns


Zimbabwe’s star cricketer Sikandar Raza has termed the performance of the youngsters in the absence of senior players as the biggest positive from the recent series win against Bangladesh.

The Chevrons not only winning the T20I and ODI cricket series against Bangladesh but also achieving that while trying out new players was very encouraging for senior batter Raza.

Raza, the Player of the Series in the ODI and T20I series against Bangladesh ast Harare Sports Club, described the number of youngsters played by Zimbabwe as the biggest positive from the series victories.

Zimbabwe won the ODI and T20I leg, registering their first ever T20I series win over Bangladesh and their first ODI win in nine years against them during the course of the series.

In the absence of regular ODI skipper Craig Ervine, all-rounder Sean Williams, and fast bowlers Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani, Zimbabwe handed out five debuts in the six matches and fielded a total of 17 players in the ODIs alone.

The hosts handed a debut to legspinner John Masara in the series-deciding third T20I, before giving ODI caps to medium-pace bowlers Victor Nyauchi and Brad Evans, spin-bowling allrounder Tony Munyonga, and wicketkeeper-batter Clive Madande during the course of the series.

“From a team perspective, the biggest positive is the amount of youngsters who played in this series,” Raza said. “Some of our big names were missing. We don’t get to play a lot of games, but the new guys did well as well. Tony played a quality cameo [in the second ODI], Victor bowled very well in the three games, Brad held his own, (and) Clive showed a glimpse of class.”

Zimbabwe were missing regular captain Ervine due to hamstring and knee injuries, allrounder Williams for what Zimbabwe Cricket said were “personal matters”, and pace bowlers Muzarabani and Chatara because of a tear in the thigh and a collarbone fracture, respectively.

To add to that, they suffered another blow when Regis Chakabva, named captain for the ODIs in absence of Ervine, was ruled out of the third ODI due to a sprained hand. That is when Raza stood in, with Zimbabwe fielding 17 players during the three-match series.

“From a team perspective, the biggest positive is the amount of youngsters who played in this series,” Raza said in the post-match press conference after the third ODI.

“Some of our big names were missing. We don’t get to play a lot of games, but the new guys did well as well. Tony (Munyonga) played a quality cameo, Victor (Nyauchi) bowled very well in the three games, Brad (Evans) held his own, and Clive (Madande) showed a glimpse of class.

“All the senior players are missing due to injuries. No one has been rested,” Raza said. “We are trying to bring a winning culture in the changing room. We have complained about Zimbabwe not playing a lot of games, so now that we are getting games, we didn’t think of resting.”

Raza led the way for his side with innings of 65 not out and 62 in the first two T20Is, and followed that up with back-to-back unbeaten knocks of 135 and 117 as Zimbabwe clinched the ODI series with a game to spare. But Raza chose to highlight the performance of his teammates too.

He he felt that Innocent Kaia hitting 110 in the first ODI, and Chakabva cracking 102 off 75 balls in the second stood out, as much as pace bowler Luke Jongwe’s vital contributions.

“One man doesn’t win cricket matches – not ODIs anyway. The unsung hero that nobody is talking about is Luke Jongwe,” Raza said. “He took the ball in difficult circumstances every game, he has bowled well. He has batted well too. He played an exceptional little cameo in the first ODI.

“You say that the focus is on me, but my focus is on the guys who have done well but not getting mentioned. Luke, Tony, Clive, Victor, (and) Bradley, who took the double-wicket (over) today (during the third ODI) – these things break the opposition’s back.”

He also believed that the new coach Dave Houghton bringing a level of calm and fearlessness to the side was something new in the Zimbabwe ranks.

“You have to be in the changing room to understand his value. It is no secret that he has done exceptionally well in a very short time,” Raza said. “Dave has brought that fearless cricket with some accountability, and by not being reckless. He pointed out rightly today that we were slightly on the reckless side.

“Apart from that, he has managed us well. He has a lot of care, love and respect for the players. We have it for Dave Houghton anyway, but to see a Zimbabwean legend give love, time and respect back to the players, [and] speaking one on one, it is hard to put it in words.”

He said that a big sign of Zimbabwe’s improvement was seeing how Richard Ngarava and Nyauchi, Nos. 10 and 11, added 68 runs for the tenth wicket, with the hosts at 83 for 9 in pursuit of 257 in the third ODI.

“The fans kept singing. The brand of cricket that we are trying to encourage to play is fearless,” Raza added. “It would have been easy for us to close shop at 130 for 8 [9], but we didn’t want to do that.

“We want to believe genuinely that we can win a game from any position. To see our No. 10 and 11 put on a 68-run partnership is encouraging. I was telling the coach that you found your new No 5. I am happy to go down!” ESPNCricinfo/ICC Cricket.com

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