Our accomplished all-rounder, Sikandar Raza, has lavished praise on teammate Jitesh Sharma, calling him “the player to look out for”.
In an exclusive interview with ESPNcricinfo, Raza said that wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh impressed him the most among his teammates in the ongoing edition of the TATA Indian Premier League (IPL).
The 37-year-old Zimbabwe international stated that Jitesh has all the qualities to play for the Indian cricket team.
This is a Jitesh Sharma appreciation post! ⚡️#JazbaHaiPunjabi #SaddaPunjab #TATAIPL #PBKSvMI pic.twitter.com/yfi1j5L1Ba— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) May 3, 2023
“The guy that (who) has impressed me the most is Jitesh Sharma. It would be great if he ends up playing for India. India being so top-heavy, imagine having a wicketkeeper who can bat like him down the order. I think he has been the player to look out for,” Raza was quoted as saying.
Jitesh has been one of the standout players for us this season. The hard-hitting batter has scored 265 runs in 12 innings at an excellent strike rate of 158.68.
Sikandar Raza’s Debut Campaign:
At the TATA IPL 2023 mini-auction, Raza became only the fourth Zimbabwean cricketer to bag a contract after Ray Price, Tatenda Taibu and Brandon Taylor.
He made his TATA IPL debut against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali for our season opener.
Etching His Name In History Books:
Raza scripted history as he became the first Zimbabwean cricketer to score a fifty in TATA IPL. His 57 off 41 balls helped us register a thrilling two-wicket win over Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium.
𝐍𝐚𝐳𝐚𝐫 𝐧𝐚 𝐥𝐚𝐠 𝐣𝐚𝐲𝐞! 😇#LSGvPBKS #JazbaHaiPunjabi #SaddaPunjab #TATAIPL pic.twitter.com/uFC0JbHDe5— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) April 15, 2023
“I'd say that Lucknow is a quality side with a good seam and spin attack. On that wicket, it was harder to score. It was a tough chase [of 160], so to come out on top of that game… the only reason we still have a chance to qualify is that we did well in away matches,” Raza said to ESPNcricinfo.
Memorable Cameo At Chepauk:
Raza also played a pivotal role in our historic win against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at the iconic M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk.
Coming in to bat in the 19th over, he scored an unbeaten 13 off just seven balls to help us chase down 201 as we became the first team to have successfully chased 200-plus in Chennai.
Let Him Be What He's Meant To Be... He's the 𝐅𝐈𝐍𝐈🦁! #CSKvPBKS #JazbaHaiPunjabi #SaddaPunjab #TATAIPL pic.twitter.com/oQuhrTKGyF— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) April 30, 2023
“It was nice to have our name written in the history books. That's why you play this beautiful game so that you can put on a performance that can be remembered for a long time,” Raza said in the interview.
“Ticked all the boxes”
Raza has played seven matches for us so far. He scored 139 runs at a strike rate of 141.83 and scalped three wickets.
Our star all-rounder added that he has given his everything every time he donned our jersey.
“I have given my everything every time I have gone out to the field. I have no regrets in terms of my effort. I have got a Player of the Match [award], two MVPs, and one Dream 11 [award, for most fantasy points in a match], so at least I have four trophies to take home,” the Sialkot-born cricketer added.
When asked about his debut experience so far, Raza said, “If you said that there will be no more cricket from tomorrow, I'd say yes, I have ticked all the boxes.”
“Everybody is clear about their role”
Raza has also heaped praise on the TATA IPL campaign. He expressed that everything is very professional in the marquee T20 tournament.
“Everybody is clear about their roles, so when Sam captained, we had very little chat. He'd give me the field that I want, then leave it to me. This has been really great about the IPL that everyone is very clear about their individual roles. Rest of the things look after themselves,” he said to the Bangalore-based sports website.
Raza’s Final Wish:
Raza only hopes that Zimbabwe qualifies for the upcoming 50-over Cricket World Cup to be held in India in October-November this year.
“Guys, I am leaving with one request: please pray that Zimbabwe qualify. I genuinely do believe that the way they looked after me, (and) my teammates deserve the hospitality too. Quality of cricket, the stadiums, the crowd, the brands, the sponsorship. It is just unreal,” the all-rounder revealed.