Sikandar Raza failed a test for Pakistan’s air force but was flying high on Thursday after playing a central role in Zimbabwe’s shock T20 World Cup win over the country of his birth.
The 36-year-old all-rounder was born in Pakistan and had wanted to be a pilot, but he was rejected and his family later emigrated to Zimbabwe.
He went on to pursue his higher education in Scotland. But cricket was his calling and he played domestic cricket in Zimbabwe before making the national side in 2013.
Raza said that he had learned the game the hard way.
“I picked up cricket late and maybe making up for lost time,” he said.
It is the same for his adopted country.
“For Zimbabweans most of the learning is on the job,” the mild-mannered Raza added. “We don’t get to play top nations a lot, we don’t get to play under lights a lot. This was my first game in Perth.”
Raza has been in top form with the bat and turned hero with the ball in Perth to return figures of 3-25 as his Zimbabwe side edged out Pakistan by one run in a World Cup thriller.
Zimbabwe moved to third in a group led by India and put Pakistan in danger of an early exit.
Raza said afterwards that praise from former Australia captain Ricky Ponting inspired him to deliver on the biggest stage of all.
Ponting had spoken highly of Zimbabwe and picked out Raza in a recent clip posted by the ICC.
“He is 36 but he’s playing with a more youthful exuberance now. Looks like he is 26 again, he is running around the field, enjoying himself and leading from the front,” Ponting said.
Raza said that had been a huge confidence boost.
“When I woke up [this morning] my friend sent me a message and said, ‘Have you seen a clip on ICC?’ and that was of Ricky Ponting talking about Zimbabwe and me,” Raza told reporters.
“Some of my friends and family messaged and said they had a tear in their eye for me. I had goosebumps, one of the greats of this game talking about Zimbabwe and in particular me.
“Not that I needed an extra kick, but if I needed one, that clip did the job for me.
“I wanted to stay clam but at the same time be pumped up for this game.”
© Agence France-Presse