IPL 2023: Sikandar Raza makes IPL debut with PBKS' opening clash versus KKR
In a fairytale moment for the Zimbabwean allrounder, Sikandar Raza was on Saturday (April 1) named in the playing XI for Punjab Kings' (PBKS) opening game as he made his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut with the clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). The cricketer's name was confirmed in the four overseas slots by captain Shikhar Dhawan at the toss.
Raza makes his IPL debut amidst great sense of anticipation after being in tremendous form over the past 12 months for Zimbabwe at the international stage while also making his presence felt in T20 leagues, including the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
His influx into the PBKS' first XI had been fastened by the absence of couple of key away members from the squad, including English cricketer and like-for-like prospect Liam Livingstone with an injury.
Livingstone's presence adds explosiveness in the middle-order and gives Dhawan an extra utility option in the spin department. His absence may have derailed PBKS' plans on those fronts but Sikandar Raza helps plug the holes quitely nicely for the 2014 runners-up.
Raza is not only capable of providing a robust batting option down the order but can also tighten up the screws on opposition batters with his handy and disciplined off-spin.
Sikandar Raza brings Zimbabwean flavour back to IPL
The experienced 36-year-old cricketer is bringing the Zimbabwean presence back to the world's most celebrated T20 league.
Only two Zimbabwean internationals have previously turned out in the IPL.
The first of the lot being former captain Tatenda Taibu for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in IPL 2008 and the other the country's stoic left-arm spinner Ray Price who played for Mumbai Indians (MI) back in IPL 2011.
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Raza, however, has strong claims of being the best of this trio to have made an IPL debut, having been a valiant performer in either departments for his country.
The cricketer has featured in 17 Tests, 129 ODIs and 66 T20Is, in which he has struck 1,259 runs at a strike rate of 128.86 while also taking 38 wickets at a respectable 7.18 runs an over.
Overall, he has played a whopping 172 T20 games in his competitive career with 3,346 runs at 131.94 and 87 scalps at an economy rate of 7.40, featuring also in leagues such as the Afghanistan Premier League (APL), the Everest Premier League (EPL), Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the recently launched International League T20 (ILT20) in UAE for Dubai Capitals (DC).