Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

PSL 2019: Haris Rauf is no longer a myth; he could become the stuff of legend

Not much is known about the Lahore Qalandars fast bowler. But against Karachi Kings in Dubai on Saturday, he gave the world a glimpse of his raw talent

When Haris Rauf arrived at Dubai International Stadium on Saturday afternoon, he was still just a theory. A Pakistan Super League myth.

Footage did exist on YouTube of him apparently bowling at 150kph. And Aaqib Javed, his coach at Lahore Qalandars, was already tipping him for greatness.

But well he might. If Rauf did make good on the myth, it is Aaqib, of course, who would be seen as the kingmaker, the man who plucked this raw gem from the obscurity of street cricket.

It is a cute narrative: a tape-ball quick making good from a talent hunt that has, over the course of time, viewed over half a million aspirants.

But would there actually be any substance to it? We have heard noise before, emanating from the same quarters. Like the one about the ambidextrous fast-bowler, whose video went viral and he subsequently landed a 10-year deal with the same franchise. Where is he now?

Rauf is clearly into the hype, too, sporting as he does the No 150 on the back of his green Qalandars shirt. A description, presumably, of the speed at which he can purportedly hit.

But what of that substance? Is there any?

Lahore Qalandars bowler Haris Rauf, centre, definitely lived up to the hype on his PSL bow. Courtesy Pakistan Cricket Board
Lahore Qalandars bowler Haris Rauf, centre, definitely lived up to the hype on his PSL bow. Courtesy Pakistan Cricket Board

Oh yes. Oh, so very, yes. All the evidence required was the four shells he sent down to dismiss Mohammed Rizwan, Ravi Bopara, Imad Wasim and Sohail Khan.

This kid – age unspecified, but unquestionably raw – took responsibility to bowl Lahore to an against-the-odds win over their ancient rivals Karachi.

He hatched plans with the great AB de Villiers – who was by that point filling in as captain for the injured Mohammed Hafeez – with anything but stars in his eyes. Fire in his belly, yes. Ice on the mind, perhaps. But deference to the established stars around him? Pah, no chance.

To put this into context, this was just the fourth match ESPNcricinfo had listed as him having played in his whole career, in his online biography.

Previous to this PSL, he had played some club cricket in Australia, by dint of Lahore’s development programme, plus the Abu Dhabi T20 last year. And that is it. Raw? He is barely even out of the soil.

By the end of it, though, with him the four-wicket champion of a 22-run win, he was fielding questions about the potential of him making Pakistan’s World Cup-squad just a few months from now.

Rather than rebuff them as an outlandish pipe dream, he just pointed out it would be sensible to see how the task at hand goes first.

“I want to focus on PSL first, and if I perform and the selectors think I am good enough, then why not?” Rauf said.

“If they give me the opportunity, I will try to take it.

“Of course I am very happy. Especially [because of] the way Lahore Qalandars have worked with me over the past one-and-a-half years.

“I was selected in September 2017 from the player development programme. They kept me in their academy, sent me to Australia where I received training. I then returned to the academy.

“I had a chance to play in Abu Dhabi. I helped Lahore Qalandars win there. A match-winning bowling performance was the target. I played to my strengths, and we won.”

Now he has tasted the winning feeling – a rare sensation for Lahore players in the short history of the PSL – he wants more.

“It was important I win them the match [against Karachi],” Rauf said.

“Especially because the way they worked with me. It was my duty to respond to that, and I did.

“Now the focus is on the next matches. There are lots of matches coming up. Inshallah, I hope to keep winning these matches.”

Another intriguing plotline was the identity of the opposition coach. Whatever the conflict-of-interest issues are that relate to having Pakistan’s national team coach in charge of an independent franchise, players know that they cannot be missed if they perform against Karachi Kings. And Mickey Arthur, who wears both those caps, was impressed.

“I am observing a lot of players during this PSL, and he is certainly one of them,” Arthur said.

“He did his chances no harm. He bowled well, he executed his yorkers at the end. He was fantastic.”

Updated: February 17, 2019 11:41 AM

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