18 year-old Hasan Raza is a left-handed middle order batsman from Mirpur who has been a regular for the Pakistan Under-19s. He was top-scorer with 55 when the Pakistan Under 19s defeated England in December last year at a Tri-Nation Tournament in the UAE, and a week later scored a century against Nepal in the Asia Cup, sharing a 166-run second wicket stand with captain Sami Aslam. The next day, he scored 60 in a 113-run third wicket stand to help Pakistan defeat the UAE.
His penchant for playing important knocks has seen him selected for the Pakistan Under-19s team for the upcoming ICC Under-19s World Cup to be contested later this month in the UAE. PakPassion.net: caught up with Raza to discuss how he got into cricket, the recently-concluded Under-19 Asia Cup, his hopes for the ICC Under-19 World Cup and his future aspirations.
Full name: Hasan Raza
Born June 1, 1995, Mirpur
Major teams Pakistan Under-19s
Batting style Left-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium-fast
PakPassion.net: When did you start playing cricket at a competitive level?
Hasan Raza: When I was in class 8 or 9, I was playing a match and the coaches at my club Eagle Star Cricket Club spoke to my elder brother and indicated that they thought I had the potential to push on to a higher level and wanted me to work with them more closely. My brother informed them that I was studying and that my main focus was on my studies. However, the coaches were insistent and assured my brother that I would play cricket only on weekends, which would allow me to continue with my education. That was the start of my career in cricket and I have played ever since.
PakPassion.net: Who were your role models when growing up?
Hasan Raza: I believe all those who have reached the highest level of international cricket should be admired. However my favourite batsman is Pakistan's former opening batsman, Saeed Anwar. He had an elegant batting style and his technique allowed him to score runs all over the wicket. Growing up, I was inspired by his fluency and the way he used to find gaps and score boundaries.
PakPassion.net: Out of the cricketers currently playing, which ones do you like the most?
Hasan Raza: In Pakistan, I really like Sohaib Maqsood. He is incredibly talented. Aside from Pakistan players, I admire Alastair Cook and AB de Villiers. Alastair Cook plays with a straight bat and occupies the crease, putting a high price on his wicket which I believe is commendable. AB de Villiers has a very different approach. He's fearless and stays loyal to his aggressive mentality, no matter where he is playing. If he's playing in South Africa, England, against Pakistan in the UAE, or anywhere else in the world, he looks to keep the scoreboard moving and puts the opposition under pressure.
PakPassion.net: You participated in the recently-concluded Under-19 Asia Cup. What did you learn from the experience?
Hasan Raza: I performed really well early in the Under-19 Asia Cup but unfortunately I couldn't carry my good form to the latter stages of the tournament. In the final, when my team needed me most, I didn't contribute as I had hoped. India put over 300 runs on the board and I wanted to score a century to win the match for my team, but it didn't happen unfortunately. InshAllah in the upcoming [ICC Under-19] World Cup, I will make amends.
PakPassion.net: What are your hopes for the ICC Under-19 World Cup? Have you set yourself any specific targets?
Hasan Raza: I am very hopeful of a good show in the World Cup, despite the fact that I haven't scored many runs in my last three matches [against Afghanistan and India]. Our first match in the World Cup is against India and I really want to carry the burden of my team in that match as well as through the tournament against all other teams! We have a lot of talented batsmen such as Sami Aslam and Imam-ul-Haq, but I have high hopes that I will be able to contribute to Pakistan's success in the World Cup.
PakPassion.net: Is there any reason you struggled in the series against Afghanistan Under-19s a few weeks ago?
Hasan Raza: Afghanistan are a very strong team and restricted us to mere 52 runs in the last ODI we played against them, but that doesn't mean we are not capable. Unfortunately the team didn't gel well that day. As far as my own performance is concerned, as I mentioned earlier, I couldn't get going in my last three matches, but I'm looking forward to the World Cup now and putting those bad performances behind me. I will go to the World Cup in a positive frame of mind.
PakPassion.net: Many players in the current Pakistan Under-19 side must have high hopes of playing for the Pakistan's national team in future?
Hasan Raza: Definitely. Everyone who starts playing cricket hopes to represent Pakistan and wear the green cap one day. All of the 15 players in the squad for the [Under-19] World Cup have a lot of ability and that's why they are playing Under-19 cricket for Pakistan. However talent is not everything, one has to work hard as well. Sami Aslam is a big name and is the top-scorer in the world in Under-19 cricket. Imam-ul-Haq, Zafar Gohar and Zia-ul-Haq are just a few names who have what it takes to play for Pakistan.
PakPassion.net: What was the process which resulted in your selection for the Pakistan's Under-19 team?
Hasan Raza: I was the second highest scorer in my region. In the trial matches arranged for the Under-19s, I impressed the coaches by scoring runs in two of the three matches that I played. The regional trials were held in Diamond Ground, Islamabad and over 70 players took part in them. They named me in the 20-man squad from the 70 attendees and I played a trial match. In that match, I scored runs again and was selected for the Pakistan Under-19 team.
PakPassion.net: Tell us about cricket in Mirpur?
Hasan Raza: Cricket is thriving in Mirpur. It is still not of the same level as the large urban centres such as Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi but with the passage of time, it will further improve. Afaq Raheem is from our region and he was in Pakistan's squad for the  tour of Sri Lanka. He was part of Islamabad's team which played against Rawalpindi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final a month ago and is one of the top run-getters for Islamabad this season. There are quite a few talented players who are playing club cricket in Mirpur who I think will break through in the next few seasons.
PakPassion.net: How has the recently concluded training camp for the upcoming ICC Under-19 World Cup prepared you and other players for the tournament?
Hasan Raza: All the players gave their 100% in the training camp. The loss to India in the Asia Cup a few weeks ago is still in the back of our minds. It was a big opportunity to win the tournament but now, with the help of this camp, the players are geared up for the World Cup and are fully focused on winning it for our country.
PakPassion.net: Which teams do you think have a chance of winning the ICC Under-19 World Cup?
Hasan Raza: There are four to five teams which we have played against recently. From Asia, Afghanistan have a very strong side and India are regarded as a very good team too. I also rate England very highly. The Pakistan-India match will be a big one. Vijay Zol and Sanju Samson are very talented players from India and they performed very well against us in the final and have also played in the IPL recently. However, we have the potential to not only do well, but also to win the World Cup.
PakPassion.net: What are your plans for the future?
Hasan Raza: Playing for the senior Pakistan team is not in my mind at the moment. I want to be fully developed and at my best when I play for Pakistan, but I hope to represent the national side in the next three of four years, in Test cricket. However, currently my sole focus is on the World Cup.