'I hope T20 franchises are watching' - Zimbabwe coach spells warning about in-form all-rounder

Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton reflected on the side’s progress to the Super 12s of the T20 World Cup 2022, and was in high-praise for a premier all-rounder, who he feels would be eyed by T20 franchises in near future.
Sikandar Raza?width=963&height=541&resizemode=4
Zimbabwe defeated Scotland by five wickets to progress to the Super 12s at T20 World Cup 2022.

Having been suspended from participation at the last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE by the ICC, Zimbabwe have made a stellar comeback in the ongoing 2022 edition in Australia, topping the Group B standings in the opening round to progress through to the Super 12s.

The team had qualified for the competition after having registered a 37-run win over the Netherlands in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B earlier this year. They defeated Ireland by 31 runs in the tournament opener, before going down to the West Indies by a similar margin in their next outing.

They redeemed themselves with a five-wicket triumph in a must-win final Group B game against Scotland in Hobart on Friday, to top the group, and alongside Netherlands - who finished second in Group A - will now join India, Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh in Group 2 of the Super 12s stage.

Coach Dave Houghton reflected on the side’s journey.

“Obviously we're over the moon. When I took over in June or so for the qualifiers in Bulawayo, the biggest and main objective was to get here,” Houghton said in the post-match presser on Friday. “We got ahead and won five of those games, and they were as pressurised as any game because each game was like a cup final.

“So we had some sort of experience of playing a game with as much on it as this one is like today. But still it's great getting here and getting through.

“I did say to the guys when we left home, it's nice we qualified to get here, but that's not our main objective. Our main objective is to get through and then cause as much damage in the next trials as we can.”

At the forefront of Zimbabwe’s success has been all-rounder Sikander Raza, who has been exceptional on either fronts this year. Raza is currently the highest run-scorer in the competition with 136 runs at a strike-rate of 172.15, and has bagged five wickets at 12.20, while maintaining a stellar economy of 5.55.

The coach believes that the 36-year-old could be a much sought after player in global T20 leagues in near future.

“Look, Raza is a fantastic cricketer, and he likes to be on a big stage to show people what a fantastic cricketer he is. I hope a lot of people around the world in franchise tournaments are watching because he's a fantastic T20 cricketer,” Houghton said.

“I think he wishes he was three or four years younger so he could have more fun, but I can tell you, the way he's playing at the moment, we'll keep him going as long as he wants.”

Zimbabwe will be up against South Africa in their first Super 12s clash in Hobart on Monday, October 24.