Cricket

Haris Rauf – 'The Rawalpindi Bullet Train'


THE NEW PACE SENSATION

Rauf’s scorching pace and reverse swing powered Lahore Qalandars to a 22-run win © PCB

Before the start of the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Haris Rauf was just another name in the emerging lot, looking to leave an impression. The promising cricketer had said he aimed “to bowl as fast as I can” in the tournament. And, so he did. That also in the most-anticipated match-up between Karachi King and Lahore Qalandars. He was so brilliant that in a matter of hours he turned into the most talked about player in Pakistan – according to the Twitter trends.

What did he do?

Rauf, recipient of the man-of-the-match award, sent down scorching reverse-swinging yorkers towards the backend of Karachi’s run-chase and picked up four wickets in 10 balls to keep the Imad Wasim-led side 22 short of Lahore’s 138-run total. The 24-year-old charmed with his composure when he was introduced into the attack for his second and final spell with Karachi requiring 47 off four overs with seven wickets in hand.

The right-arm pacer consistently clocked at over 140 km/h and picked up the crucial wickets of Ravi Bopara and Rizwan on the second and fourth ball of the 17th over to reduce the opposition to to 96 for five. His exploits in the penultimate over were even better.

After an inside edge helped Imad to eke out a boundary, Rauf outmanoeuvred him the next ball by following the Pakistan international as he shuffled across the off-stump to scoop the ball over fine-leg. The next delivery, Rauf accounted for Imad’s wicket as the left-handed batsman holed out to long-on attempting to get under a fuller delivery that tailed away. He followed it up by rattling Sohail Khan’s off-stump with a fuller delivery that dipped late into the right-handed batsman. His four overs saw him return excellent figures of four for 23 and, most importantly, helped Lahore get off the mark this season.

Sounds impressive. Must have heaps of competitive cricket under his belt to wade through such a tense situation?

Not really. This was just Rauf’s fourth T20. He has not played any cricket in Pakistan’s domestic circuit.

Oh, wow. How did he reach here?

Rauf hails from Rawalpindi and before becoming a professional cricketer, he worked as a salesman and earned approximately two US dollars in a day. He was well-known in tape-ball circuit for his extraordinary pace and teams would pay him to feature for them. Fondly called as ‘Haris Pindi’ back then, Rauf in September 2017 appeared for Lahore Qalandars’ trails in Gujranwala for their annual Player Development Program and he impressed the coaches with his searing pacers.

Lahore’s team manager and owner Sameen Rana revealed that Rauf touched speeds of 92.3mph and initially, the coaches couldn’t believe their eyes. They asked him to bowl again for the confirmation only to be astonished by the youngster’s pace. This was the first time Rauf was bowling with a hard ball.

Qalandars took him under his wings immediately. They worked on his skills at their academy and sent him to Australia with their player development squad. His performances there landed him a contract with Hawkesbury Cricket Club. During his stay, he even got the chance to bowl at Virat Kohli in nets before the Sydney Test against Australia earlier this year.

On what basis did the franchise decide that he was ready to take part in the PSL?

It was based on his spectacular run in the Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy in October last year. Rauf played an instrumental role in Qalandars’ win over South African franchise Titans in the final. In a spell of four overs, including the final over of the match, Rauf gave away only 23 runs. His final over was especially striking as he leaked only four runs with Albie Morkel and Chris Morris on strike. On the last ball, he bowled Morkel.

Seems to be a promising prospect.

Definitely. With Pakistan’s pacers under scrutiny for their failure to bowl at higher speeds – unlike their predecessors – Rauf’s emergence on the scene is a promising development. Who knows he might be on the plane to England with the Pakistan’s World Cup squad – a couple of months down the road. Especially after Mickey Arthur’s statement that top-performers in the PSL might get a chance to prove their mettle at the international level in the Australia ODIs during the latter part of March.

His spell on Saturday brought back memories of Pakistan’s pacers dominance in the death overs in the olden days. There was lethal pace, sharp late swing, and composure – the most important element — to execute the plans.

The franchise went live on Facebook upon the team’s arrival at the hotel after the victory. The presenter to fete the emergence of another true fast bowler from Rawalpindi said “there used to be Rawalpindi Express and now we have Rawalpindi Bullet Train”.

Whether Rauf will reach the top-echelons like Shoaib Akhtar – that’s something that only time will tell us.

© Cricbuzz

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