Sikandar Raza reveals Sunil Narine’s role in his revamped bowling

Sikandar Raza opened up on his transition as a spin-bowler to go with his outstanding batting form, which was brought about with help from one of the best in the business.
Sikandar Raza and Sunil Narine
Raza has returned 1/22 and 3/19 from his two outings at the T20 World Cup 2022.

Sikandar Raza, Zimbabwe’s experienced all-rounder, has been a standout performer for the team on both fronts this year. The right-hander has aggregated 598 runs at 42.71, while striking at 154.52 in T20Is this year, including a match-winning 82 off 48 against Ireland in Zimbabwe’s first match at the ongoing ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 on Monday. Those came in a match wherein no batter from either team crossed 27.

As for the bowling, Raza, who had bagged just 13 wickets from his first seven years in T20I cricket, has bagged 19 wickets with his mystery off-breaks this year, while having maintained an excellent economy of 5.94. He bagged 1/22 from three overs against Ireland, dismissing a set George Dockrell in a 31-run win.

In the second game against the West Indies on Wednesday, Raza dismissed Evin Lewis, Shamarh Brooks and Jason Holder in a spell of 3/19, as the opponents stumbled from 77/1 to 101/6 batting first, and were eventually restricted to 153/7.

The revamp in bowling though came as a result of being out of action for a considerable period after bone marrow infection last year. After having undergone a surgery to remove a malignant tumour from the bone marrow, Raza had to choose either to change his bowling option or to give up that facet of his game entirely. He chose the former.

The 36-year-old further revealed the crucial role Sunil Narine played in helping him evolve as a finger-spinner.

"I don't think I have any other option," Raza told ESPNCricinfo. "After those two surgeries, I lost a lot of strength in my shoulder. I couldn't really get my hand up and when I did, I felt like there was not a lot of zip on the ball. The ball wasn't coming out at a pace I wanted. Sunil has played a huge role. I was at CPL and I was watching him very closely and bugging him, asking him a lot of questions."

"Just being an offspinner without any variation is quite hard to survive white-ball cricket. That thought led to the variations and again Sunil has played a huge role as well. I met him at BPL and had a very good chat with him. And now to see some of the variations coming out of the hand really nicely is quite pleasing."