If Haris Rauf is given the green light to make his debut in a fairy tale Test against Australia in the coming weeks, the former tap-ball star will have the unusual distinction of having once played in tandem with any the attack at the pace of the opposition.
It is a measure of the almost mythical nature of Rauf’s uncommon express pace that those who facilitated and witnessed his incredible rise from sophomore club cricket to the highest level remember his net sessions as vividly as his exploits on the field.
And the combination of Rauf, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood playing in the same net is a nightmare for even the most capable hitters.
A Blues player who was at SCG for that foursome’s chilling union during a training session in New South Wales at the start of the 2017-18 season remembers them “bowling rockets” on the state players in the line of fire.
More than four years later and 11,000 kilometers away, these four could be unleashed again over the same 22 meters if Rauf gets the green light to make his Test debut against a country that has been integral to his astonishing rise .
Injuries that kept key men Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf out of Friday’s Test series opener on a seam-friendly Rawalpindi surface could see Rauf put on his first cap in his hometown and join close friend Shaheen Shah Afridi in Pakistan’s pace attack to face Australia.
Rauf wouldn’t have been in Sydney at the end of 2017 if he hadn’t made the four and a half hour drive for an open trial with Pakistani Super League side Lahore Qalandars where he was clocked at 148.5km /h.
In the nets, of course.
The right-hand shipowner had never bowled with a leather ball, nor owned a pair of bowling pins, but he was the only diamond discovered among the hundreds of thousands of trials riders at Jinnah Stadium in northeastern Pakistan who was spotted and then fed by the Qalandars.
“We weren’t looking for ready-made players. We wanted the players to show potential, and we will invest in them,” Qalandars coach and former Rapid Test Aaqib Javed told ESPN last year. “He had the rhythm, but he needed two years of proper training to become a good bowler.”
Brought to Australia on a development tour that included games against the Sydney Sixers and Thunder, Rauf traveled to Western Suburbs, initially in their second XI, for sporadic appearances over two seasons before joining Hobart side Glenorchy for the summer 2019-2020.
By then, Javed had helped turn the lightly built Rauf – who weighed just 71kg when he showed up for his trial – into one of the breakout talents of the 2019 PSL.
Yet even when the Melbourne Stars removed him from Tasmanian Premier Cricket as an eleventh-hour substitute for rookie Dale Steyn, who also happened to be one of Rauf’s idols, the speedster remained an unknown quantity.
“We desperately needed a fast bowler,” Stars manager David Hussey told cricket.com.au. “The first time I saw him was when he came into the net at the MCG.
“I said, ‘Take it easy with the boys today, do whatever you need today and we’ll have a bigger session tomorrow’. He was on a plane (from Hobart that day ).
“He burst in. Nick Larkin was fighting him and he came out (of the nets) – and Nick is one of the bravest hitters around – and he said, ‘Man you got a good one here’ . “
Rauf’s success was jaw-dropping, capturing 20 wickets in 10 games, including a hat-trick against the Sydney Thunder at the MCG, and propelled him into the limited overrun Pakistani teams.
His basic English had, at first, limited the tactical instructions the Stars brains could give him. With the help of Stars team manager Russell Radhakrishnan, who speaks Hindi, the coaches and captain Glenn Maxwell learned the Urdu words for “yorker”, “slower ball” and “bouncer”.
When he returned for his third stint at the club earlier this summer amid a major outbreak of COVID-19 in the Stars’ camp which sidelined the majority of their squad, Rauf highlighted his reputation as a quick learner.
“Because we weren’t allowed to celebrate with each other, I encouraged all the boys to have their own celebrations,” said Hussey, who offered a prize to whoever came up with the wicket celebration. more creative in their January game against the Perth Burners.
Unbeknownst to the coach or his teammates, Rauf placed a surgical mask in the pocket of his playing pants and pulled it over his face after dismissing Kurtis Patterson, a quirky (and harmless to the player) salute. COVID) with him mimicking applying hand sanitizer.
Rauf are now true T20 stars, helping the Qalandars to the PSL title on Sunday alongside captain and Shaheen, while that pair were also the pace linchpins of a formidable Pakistan side who were beaten by Australia in semi-final of the T20 World Cup in November.
But it remains to be seen whether Rauf can translate those skills into test cricket.
The 28-year-old has played just four first-class games and only one in the past two years, despite winning nine wickets in that game for Central Punjab, playing 33 overs on consecutive days.
Qantas Tour of Pakistan 2022
Pakistani team: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood. Reserves: Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammad Haris
Australia Test Team: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc , Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. Standby: Sean Abbott, Brendan Doggett, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Renshaw
March 4-8: First try, Rawalpindi
March 12-16: Second try, Karachi
March 21-25: Third try, Lahore
Australia ODI and T20 team: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi
March, 31st: Second ODI, Rawalpindi
April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi
April 5: Only T20I, Rawalpindi
All matches will be shown in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports