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Key Player Sikandar Raza Set to Exit IPL for Zimbabwe National Commitments

Following a historic triumph where they achieved the highest run-chase in T20 cricket history, the Punjab Kings (PBKS) are now navigating a significant setback. Senior all-rounder Sikandar Raza is set to depart from the IPL 2024 mid-season. The sensational player has answered the call of national duty as Zimbabwe gears up for an approaching five-match T20 series against Bangladesh, commencing on May 3.

Despite being in spectacular form over the past year and a half internationally, Raza’s appearances for the Kings have been scant. His participation in this IPL season was no different, featuring in only two encounters when teammate Liam Livingstone was sidelined due to injury. Once Livingstone recovered, Raza found himself on the bench again, as the squad’s international spots were occupied by Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, and Kagiso Rabada.

Announcing his imminent departure to serve his national team, Raza expressed gratitude towards India, the IPL, and the Punjab Kings via his Twitter (now X): “Thank you India, @IPL and @PunjabKingsIPL for having me, loved every minute of it. Time for national duty now #InshaAllah we will meet again soon.”

The first half of the tournament hadn’t been sterling for Bairstow, while Rilee Rossow and Livingstone also struggled to find form, suggesting a potential opening for Raza’s inclusion. However, with Bairstow’s recent ton — his second in the IPL and a first for PBKS — securing his position, chances for Raza to be picked again seemed slim. Besides, with Curran set to play, PBKS could turn to either Nathan Ellis or Chris Woakes to fill the pace bowling void, should Rabada not be available.

The upcoming series is pivotal for Zimbabwe, even though they missed out on a spot at the T20 World Cup. They face a Bangladesh side that has been underwhelming in the shortest version of the game and will look to gain momentum ahead of the World Cup scheduled in the Caribbean and the USA. The series will unfurl in Chattogram with three matches, followed by two in Dhaka, concluding on May 12.

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This T20 series will not only test Zimbabwe’s mettle but could also boost their confidence and fine-tune their squad dynamics. Their encounter with Bangladesh promises an intense contest between two sides eager to make a statement in the global T20 scene. Zimbabwe, with Raza’s experience and recent form, will hope to pose a significant challenge and secure victories in foreign conditions.

For the Punjab Kings, the remainder of the IPL season will test their depth and strategy adjustments post-Raza’s exit. With a historical run-chase under their belt, they have shown resilience and explosive potential — qualities they’ll hope to sustain as they continue their pursuit of the coveted IPL trophy without one of their key overseas players.