Sikandar Raza impressed with Babar Azam’s ‘great transformation’

All-rounder is part of the Zimbabwe squad for Pakistan tour

Sikandar Raza impressed with Babar Azam’s ‘great transformation’ PHOTO: AFP

Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza has heaped praise on Pakistan’s limited-overs captain and prolific batsman, Babar Azam, after arriving in Pakistan for a white-ball series.

While talking to Cricket Pakistan in an exclusive interview, Raza recalled his experience of watching Azam during the 2010 U19 World Cup.   

“Babar Azam is one of the best batsmen in all formats for Pakistan and to see him like that gives me immense pleasure,” said Raza. “I saw Babar during the U19 World Cup [in 2010], when he was 16 of 17 years old, and he has come a long way since then, I must say that it has been a great transformation. I pray and I wish him success.”

The 34-year-old, who was born in Sialkot, also appreciated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)’s arrangements for the touring party, ahead of the ODI and T20I series.

“I have a special bond with Pakistan and it will always be like that. I have relatives over here and always feels good to be back in Pakistan,” he said. “Things have changed due to Covid-19 protocols but I must say that the PCB is looking after us really well. It should be a good series with Pakistan.”

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The Zimbabwe team suffered a setback after their head coach, Lalchand Rajput, did not accompany the team for Pakistan tour, on advice of India’s Interior Ministry, but Raza believes that this is not a big loss for the side.  

“I personally think it is not a big loss that our head coach is not with us as we had worked on our plans before coming here. If there was a player missing, then would have been a different story altogether,” he said.

He also confident about his team’s preparations and touted middle-order batsman Craig Ervine to be one of the better performers during the series.

“Before coming to Pakistan, we played three ODIs and three T20Is as warmup matches which went well. We are as prepared as we can in difficult times and we will also utilise the next 10 days to get our skills back up,” he said.

“We have good players in the squad, even though the results might not show that. I think, Craig Ervine will have a good series,” he added.

Raza also believes that his team is headed in the right direction, when asked about the dip in Zimbabwe’s performance in the recent past. 

“I think we are heading in the right direction but it’s easy for me to say that. I will talk to you after the series and I will ask you the same question about our team’s performance and direction,” he said.

The three One-Day Internationals, between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, in Rawalpindi are set to be played on October 30, November 1 and 3, while the three Twenty20 Internationals will be held at Gaddafi Stadium on November 7, 8 and 10.