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Hasan Raza: The youngest Test debutant

Hasan Raza © AFP
Hasan Raza amassed 235 runs in seven Tests at 26.11. He also aggregated 242 runs at 18.11 in ODIs © AFP

Hasan Raza, born on March 11, 1982, was a child prodigy for Pakistan. At a tender age of 14 he made his Test debut but failed to translate his virtuoso performance on the international stage. Sudatta Mukherjee looks back at the career of the cricketer who couldn’t transform his fortune on the big stage but still remains one of the admirable cricketers in the international circuit.

 

 After a good First-Class season in 1996-97, scoring 217 runs from three matches and having an average of 43.40, a young teenaged Hasan Raza made his international debut against Zimbabwe at Faisalabad. At 14 years 227 days he was the youngest Test debutant, well short of Mushtaq Mohammad’s previous record of 15 years 124 days.

However, he failed to accomplish of what was expected from him. Despite Pakistan winning the match, he scored 27 from 48 balls. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) weren’t impressed and decided to drop him from the Test side after one match. However, he continued playing One-Day Internationals for the side.

Raza’s first eye-catching moment was in the Sahara Cup 1997 against India. This was one ODI later to the match, where Inzamam-ul-Haq attacked a fan at the stands. Raza quickly gained popularity in the second ODI despite being bullied by spectators; he remained calm and also interacted with them. In the third ODI, Pakistan won the match and elected to field first. Guided by three half-centurions, India posted a target of 251 for Pakistan. Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam scored big but Raza made vital contribution of 41. The young player looked classical when he smashed one of the deliveries off Debasis Mohanty. He moved forward and sent one packing towards the cover drive. After slamming, he waited for the ball to reach the boundary.

However, somehow he didn’t feature in any ODIs till one year later he was called up for a match against Zimbabwe. He overshadowed his previous best score with 46 against Zimbabwe. But Zimbabwean opener Niel Johnson looked ethereal, scored 103 and guided the side to a six-wicket win.

He vanished again after that match and returned a year later. In his second last ODI match, he played 77 against West Indies. He was the highest run scorer for Pakistan. His last ODI match was played in 1999.

On the other hand, Raza continued to galvanize in First-Class cricket. In 2001, Raza led the Pakistan A side to tour Sri Lanka A. He scored two centuries and averaged 64.20. The 19-year-old expressed his desire to play for the senior side again in an interview. Raza was quoted by ESPNCricinfo: “At times I get very nervous, because I am so keen to play for my country,” he admitted. “I have performed well in the domestic season. I want to play for my country and want to play for a long time, like Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas.”

A year later, he was called back into the Test squad. He glorified the situation by scoring an unbeaten 54 and 68 against Australia at Sharjah. He followed it up by scoring 46 against Zimbabwe but again a Test later, he was dropped.

Raza didn’t compromised with and fell out. In 2005, he steered Pakistan A into the Triangular tournament final by scoring an unbeaten 74. He followed it up by scoring 40 and Pakistan A won the final.

The year 2005 was a good year for the batsmen. He had a good outing in Zimbabwe. He scored 284 runs from two First-Class matches. The same year, Australia A side toured Pakistan. In a First-Class match, Australia A won the toss and elected to bat. With the help of James Hopes, Brad Hodge, Shane Watson and Cameron White, Australia posted a 407. Pakistan came into bat and in the matter of no time lost six wickets. It was then Raza who came and struck 116. At the end the match was drawn but Raza left the match as a saviour.

Later that year, PCB selected Raza was elected as the skipper of the Pakistan A side for the warm-up matches against England. Soon later the former wunderkind, found his way back into the Pakistan Test side, when he was selected for the third Test against England. However, once again, he couldn’t enthuse the fans and failed to doctor his sublime touch on international stage. That was the end of Raza’s international career.

Raza continued to feature in First-Class matches. In 2005-06, he played for Pakistan A against the visiting Indians. Along with Imran Farhat, Raza scared the Indian bowlers. He scored 75 runs.

The Karachi-born cricketer’s biggest achievement came when he led the team to lift the EurAsia Cup in 2005-06. He scored an unbeaten 106. Raza was the second most run-scorer after India’s Shikhar Dhawan, with 244 runs from five matches at an amazing average of 122.

However, little did he escape controversy! Soon after the final, four cricketers, including Raza was fined and momentarily jailed in Dubai for violating instructions and travelling to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, without the consent of the manager.

Two years later, Raza was recalled to play against Australia for the Pakistan A side. But it was a helter-skelter and he scored only three.

Raza continues to play domestic cricket. He currently plays for Karachi Zebras and Habib Bank Limited. In the just concluded Faysal Bank T20 Cup, he was the second most run-scorer for Karachi Zebras after Fakhar Zaman. His team reached quarter-final but lost to Abbottabad Falcons by four wickets.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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