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CricTracker Exclusive: ‘Suspension feels like a nightmare, would explore available options soon,’ says Sikandar Raza

'Gutted, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed and confused' - the words that sum up the situation of Sikandar Raza and all others involved with Zimbabwe Cricket.

Sikandar-Raza-Zimbabwe
Sikandar Raza of Zimbabwe. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

A piece of shocking news greeted the cricketing community all around the world when the International Cricket Council (ICC) met for its annual meeting in London on Thursday. It brought a sense of despair and disappointment as Zimbabwe, a full member of the ICC, was suspended until the next meeting in October. This decision has left the Zimbabwean cricket fraternity including Sikandar Raza in an absolute state of shock.

The 33-year-old, who has played 97 ODIs, 32 T20Is and 12 Tests felt that this decision was completely unfair. In an exclusive interview with CricTracker, he explained his state of mind at the moment and the overall mood in the cricketing fraternity there. Raza shared his insights into this whole saga and shared some of his prospective future plans as well.

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Apparently, the Zimbabwe government suspended the entire cricket board and appointed an interim committee in June this year. However, the ICC rules do not allow the government to make decisions or for any political intervention in cricket-related activities. As per ICC, there was a breach of Article 2.4 (c) and (d) of its constitution. During the meeting, the governing body decided that Zimbabwe had ‘failed to fulfil their obligation to provide a process for free and democratic elections and to ensure that there is no government interference in its administration for cricket’.

Zimbabwe cricketers left confounded

Ever since the move was made public a large part of the cricketing community has expressed displeasure. Sikandar Raza said that it is a very difficult phase for all of them and mentioned that all the cricketers have been calling each other to comfort themselves. Raza felt that there were many unanswered questions right now and noted that the was a general sense of confusion as well.

“(About the decision), Of course, not just Sikandar Raza, we’re all gutted, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed and confused to be honest. Right now, we have so many questions and we have no answer to that,” Raza told CricTracker. “It is a very difficult phase we all are going through at the moment. All of our friends (have) been ringing each other for comfort. But, it has been difficult so far.”

Raza also made it clear that the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) is an independent body that was looking after all the other sports in the country and not a part of the government. He even stated that the body was just trying to do the right thing.

“Look, as it stands, you’ve got to respect the fact that the SRC, in my opinion, is an independent body. It is not a part of (the) government anyway. And for whatever reasons they suspended Zimbabwe Cricket, they didn’t ask the players and rightly so because they don’t have to. So, you have to trust an independent body that is looking after all the sports in the country, that they’re doing the right thing. That’s all I can tell you and that is the only thing that is happening in Zimbabwe cricket.”

Sikandar Raza explains what they thought would be the worst-case scenario

Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza of Zimbabwe
Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza of Zimbabwe. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

When asked what the players were thinking and going through at the moment, Raza admitted that they didn’t see it coming. He expected that even if the ICC took action against the board it would manage the players and the staff for the next three months and even pay them. He wanted them to conduct a fair election and be responsible for Zimbabwe cricket until then.

“We didn’t see it coming. We genuinely thought, the worse come to worse, the ICC will say: ‘You know what? Send us players, match officials, the ground staff and whoever is working for Zimbabwe Cricket. We will pay them but you guys are under administration for the next three months. We’ll make sure and try and have fair elections and we will run Zimbabwe Cricket for the next three months until the next review’.”

The players are still coming to terms with the decision and are living a nightmare at the moment. The batting all-rounder insisted that it was unfair to ban them as there are 200 players who have lost their jobs and almost four times the number of people who will be affected by it. He even revealed that they’re yet to get their salaries for the last two months and with the suspension won’t be paid for another three months.

“To be honest, we all are coming to terms with it (the suspension). It just feels like a nightmare. I think it is highly unfair for the ICC to ban us. Because, right now, we have two months pending salary and next three months we’re suspended with no financial help. Basically, you’ve taken the livelihood of close to 200 players. And not only that – it means there are 800-900 more people living off that salary. So, where do they go now for the next five months? I find that decision very harsh.”

The future plans and the treatment by the ICC

Raza apprised that his immediate plan is to understand the ICC report and wants to figure if there is any chance that Zimbabwe Cricket will be reinstated in the next three months.

“My immediate plan is to go home first, sit down with my family and basically wait for the ICC report. What exactly does it say? Do we have a lifeline in three months? What are the conditions of us to be reinstated as a Test-playing nation? Based on that we’ll make a decision.

Raza also said that the ICC has supported cricket in countries like Zimbabwe, however, emphasised that he was disappointed with this particular decision of the apex cricket council.

“If I think ICC has done enough to support cricket in countries like Zimbabwe, look I’m very much disappointed with the ICC’s decision. But the answer is ‘yes’. Let’s be honest – Zimbabwe cricket has been on their agenda pretty much every time they got together. They’ve supported us and they’ve done their part. But, as much as I’m disappointed, I think where the credit is due, you need to give it. So yeah, ICC has supported us.”

Missing out on World Cup 2019 and the situation if the suspension isn’t lifted

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Sikandar Raza. (Photo Souce: Twitter)

Earlier this year, Zimbabwe also failed to qualify for the World Cup 2019, they hosted the Qualifier where two teams would earn the spots into the Championship. It was Afghanistan and West Indies the two finalists who got through to play alongside the top 8 ranked ODI teams in the mega event.

For Raza, missing out on the World Cup 2019 was tough but termed the current turn of events as the lowest point. In case Zimbabwe isn’t reinstated until October they’re set to miss out on Qualifying for the T20 World Cup to be played next year. He said that his future plans would definitely change if the suspension isn’t lifted in the next three months. He wouldn’t have the patience to be on the sidelines for another year for Zimbabwe to be back on the rooster.

“Missing out on the World Cup was quite tough. But basically, we’re suspended now and not knowing what we’re gonna do, how we’re gonna survive certainly is the lowest point. I don’t think the emotions that we all are going through  – I don’t know what can be lower than this.

“If the suspension isn’t lifted until the next three months and we miss out of the T20 World Cup, I can assure you my plans will pretty much change. If I can’t play the World Cup, and then we miss out on another one, we can’t play the qualifiers and our cricket is still suspended, then I don’t think I have a year in me just to wait for the ICC to change their decision,” said Sikandar Raza.

The finances and the Kolpak deal

As much as the senior pros who are deep in their careers, such a decision would also impact the emerging players who were setting up their careers and looking at the larger picture. Talking about the issues that have led to the downfall of Zimbabwe Cricket, Raza noted that the way their finances have been handled could be a primary reason.

“I don’t know what the root cause may be but finance is a good place to start. Finances of Zimbabwe cricket has been in the headlines for so many years. So that could be it, to be honest. Right now, there are questions that I don’t have an answer of. So I don’t wanna tweet or say something to anyone that I have to basically change after few days or weeks or months. I’m just gonna stay quiet for now.

For most professional cricketers who see little hope of making it big at the international stage, signing a deal with one of the English county clubs directly or via Kolpak has been a common move. Same has been the case in Zimbabwe. Raza sees that along with playing T20 leagues around the world as an option in case things don’t work well for them.

“If we are suspended, I think so. Club cricket in the UK or T20 leagues or something like that. I don’t regret anything in my life or career. Everything has led me to being who I’m. These are just lessons in life, to be honest,” he concluded.

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It has been a week of emotional highs and lows in sport and sadly not a good one for Zimbabwe Cricket but just wanted to officially address everyone else. I informed the players and tech staff of my decision at the end of the recent tour and wanted to formally announce my decision to retire from Zimbabwe Cricket in all formats with immediate effect. It is unfortunate and untimely however to leave under the current circumstances that are out of my control but i have decided to take a step in a new direction. Representing my country at the highest level for me has been the highest honour and service i could ever give and I have been extremely privileged to have been afforded the opportunity. My short career has been a roller coaster of highs and lows, stops and starts, frustrations and joys but will be one I shall look upon and cherish for the once in a lifetime opportunity I was lucky enough to experience and for that i would like to express my gratitude. I would like to thank my family across the world who supported me throughout the journey,my team mates, I’ll miss the trips with them, all my coaches who worked with me in one way or another, my close friends for the endless support, my mentors and roles models and anyone who pushed me and challenged me to be a better cricketer or afforded me an opportunity to train and improve . I’ll make a special mention to Midwest Rhinos, Kadoma CC,College CC, Carlton CC, Essendon CC, Tracy Village CC, Waratah CC and last but not least Northcote CC, these clubs were a big part of my journey to international cricket without forgetting the relevant parent associations. Also a big thank you to the sponsors, I couldn’t have done it without you. A special mention to Crusaders, RNS, Icon , Premgripp , Cheetah Recovery and last but not least SG . Also a special thanks to the fans. I can hardly believe that I had fans from across the world, I’m sure most were friends and to the ones I’ll never meet,thank you all so much. I am sure I have missed a few people but I’ll try my best to get in touch personally. I can say without a doubt that sport and in particular international cricket will always be my biggest lesson in life. Ever

A post shared by Solomon Mire (@sol_mire) on

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