By Saj Sadiq
Twenty one year-old Sialkot-born left arm spinner, Raza Hasan was earmarked as a bowler with a bright future right from the beginning of his career. A bowler with a variety of tricks, Raza has however only managed to make seven appearances for Pakistan, despite impressive performances particularly for his domestic sides — Rawalpindi Rams and of late, the Sialkot Stallions.
Having impressed at the World T20 in Sri Lanka in 2012, Hasan has had a year to forget after suffering a spine injury at the end of last year, which limited his domestic appearances as well as ensuring that he didn’t appear in the green of Pakistan at all this year.
Now rejuvenated and having recovered from the disc injury, Hasan spoke with PakPassion.net about his career so far, the frustration of suffering a serious injury, suggestions that he can only be successful in the twenty over format and his ambitions to play for Pakistan in all formats in future.
PakPassion.Net (PP): It’s been four years since your first class debut, how do you feel these four years have gone?
Raza Hasan (RH): First and foremost, these four years have gone very quickly, it only seems like yesterday when I was making my first class debut and dreaming of a successful career. There have obviously been some ups and downs but overall, I think things have generally gone well. Whenever I have had the chance to play for my country I feel I have performed adequately, and not let anyone down.
Injuries have hampered me; particularly the back injury that I suffered around a year ago. But injuries are part and parcel of professional sport so I have to just accept that there may be times when I am unable to take the field due to injury.
PP: Surely you must have thought though that you’d have made more than seven international appearances by now?
RH: I honestly did not set myself any goals or targets regarding international appearances. Initially I just wanted to regularly play first class cricket and establish myself in domestic cricket then take it from there. If an international call up came, then brilliant, if it didn’t then so be it.
But having played for Pakistan seven times now, yes there is an element of wishing I had played more than I have, but I prefer to look ahead rather than looking back and worrying about only seven international appearances. At the end of the day many cricketers don’t get the chance to play for their country, at least I can say at such a young age I have already featured on seven occasions.
PP: Last October, you took 2 for 14 from four overs against Australia, many thought that would be the start of a long and fruitful international career for you, but that hasn’t materialised, why do you think that is?
RH: Yes that was a very enjoyable match, I bowled well and Pakistan won. I took the important wickets of Shane Watson and Glen Maxwell and we comfortably won by 32 runs. Things went well for me that day in Colombo at the World T20 and I had a feeling that could have been the time to establish myself in international cricket in the 20-over format.
Why that hasn’t happened is largely down to a slight loss of form and a spine injury that really set my career back at such a crucial juncture. It’s impossible to know what’s going to occur in the future and one shouldn’t make any assumptions, but I’ve definitely had my share of bad luck particularly with injuries.
PP: Have you fully recovered from the back injury or is it one that will continue to trouble you from time to time?
RH: I’ve fully recovered from the back injury. The recovery period was difficult as I had to be patient and it was frustrating as I just wanted to get out there and bowl in the nets and play, but the medics advised me that I needed to recover fully and strengthen the problem area before even attempting to bowl. I’m not the best when it comes to being patient with injuries and biding my time with the rehabilitation process, but I had to be very careful with this injury as it was a serious one.
PP: There were rumours that your career was at stake due to the back injury, is that accurate and also there were some reports that the injury was down to a lack of training and gym work on your part?
RH: People have the tendency to exaggerate and there was no question at all of my career ever being at stake! I injured a disc in my spine in a domestic Twenty20 game last December and eventually I underwent surgery, performed by a neurosurgeon. It was an injury that could happen to any cricketer and the stories that it was down to my lack of training were inaccurate. Perhaps I could have informed the medical team that I wasn’t feeling 100% fit earlier than I did, but at that time I thought it was just a niggle rather than anything serious.
PP: You are being labelled by some as a T20 specialist, is that an accurate assessment?
RH: No I don’t think that is an accurate assessment. In domestic cricket, my record is consistent in all formats and whenever I’ve had the chance to play four day or one day cricket I have performed well. Just because I have only played international cricket in the twenty over format doesn’t mean that I am a specialist in that format. It’s all about opportunities and making the most of those opportunities irrespective of the format.
The reason why some think of me as a Twenty20 specialist is probably because my best performances have been in this format, but I think it’s wrong to just label me as a bowler who can take wickets just in twenty over cricket.
PP: You’ve dropped down the pecking order in terms of left-arm spinners in Pakistan with Abdur Rehman and Zulfiqar Babar being the first picks. Does that concern you?
RH: I don’t see Abdur Rehman and Zulfiqar Babar as competition or a threat to me. I don’t see myself as competing against anyone. What matters to me, are my own performances and what I do on the field and impressing the selectors. Rehman and Babar are both excellent spinners in their own right and whenever I see them we always discuss tactics and technical aspects of cricket which benefit us all.
There’s obviously a professional rivalry which is only natural, but both are senior cricketers and have been playing cricket for many years and as a young spinner I can only learn from them. I think sometimes people forget that I have only been playing first class cricket for a few years and expectations can sometimes be a bit too high from some.
PP: As a former Under-19 cricketer yourself, the current crop of Under-19s are performing really well. What advice would you offer them to make the smooth transition from Under-19 cricket to domestic cricket and ultimately to international cricket?
RH: Yes the current crop of Under-19s seem to be a very talented bunch who have performed very well, of late. Some of them are even performing very well in domestic cricket, despite their inexperience. Sami Aslam, the under-19 captain is a team mate of mine at National Bank and he looks to have all the skills to be an international cricketer in future.
My advice to all of the Under-19s as a former Under-19 cricketer myself would be to not underestimate the huge gap between Under-19 cricket, then domestic cricket and subsequently international cricket. The gap is a huge one and requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Just because you are successful in Under-19 cricket does not necessarily mean that you will be a force to reckon with in international cricket, and that is an important message that all of our Under-19 cricketers need to understand.
PP: You’ve not featured in NBP’s last two four day matches, why is that?
RH: Squad rotation and the pitches are the only reasons. Teams in domestic cricket, particularly the departments have big squads and the rotation of players is something that you just have to accept. Also the final eleven is picked after looking at the surface and many of the pitches these days especially at this time of the year favour the pace bowlers so it’s not always easy for the spinners to make the starting eleven.
PP: Looking ahead, realistically what are your short term and long term plans?
RH: Short term, I want to re-establish myself in the National Bank starting eleven and to enjoy a fruitful and successful domestic season in all formats. I want to lose that tag of being a 20-over specialist and to prove to everyone that I have the ability and skills to perform in all of the formats.
2013 was a frustrating year at times for me, and it’s not a year that I will look back on as one that I will remember with fond memories. However it’s all part of the learning process and even though I didn’t play any international cricket in 2013, I still feel that I have improved as a cricketer during this year.
In the long run, the aim is to get my place back in the Pakistan line up, and if that means starting off in the 20-over format, then so be it. Ultimately I want to play for Pakistan in all three formats. I know that is a tough ask, particularly when I am up against some high quality spinners in Pakistan, but I am young and know that time is on my side and that if given a suitable chance then I can perform in every format for Pakistan.
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