While conditions might not be the most conducive to his style of bowling, Haris Rauf’s pace and guile will be definitely worth a watch this T20 World Cup, writes Divy Tripathi.
Haris Rauf might not be the only speedster in the Pakistan’s bowling line-up, nevertheless his role of delivering goods in the middle and death overs, make him a special entity.
The presence of extra pace in a fast bowler’s arsenal, and Rauf considers 140 kph as his average pace, does make a difference to the batter who has to cope with reduced reaction time and increased threat to his person.
Rauf was touted as a premium fast bowler, even before he became a well-known name in the cricketing world.
Lahore Qalandars CEO Atif Rana "The time is not far, Haris Rauf will soon be able to break the record of the fastest ball ever bowled. Albie Morkel also praised his yorker by saying that he faced a ball like this after a long time" #Cricket pic.twitter.com/CWRg4QpYf7
— Saj Sadiq (@SajSadiqCricket) October 27, 2018
It was on the bouncy wickets of Australia, that the fast bowler first made global headlines. Coming in as Dale Steyn’s replacement, he used his raw pace to claim 20 wickets for Melbourne Stars in the 2019/20 Big Bash League, just a year on from his professional debut.
That most sought-after of attributes – express pace – saw him fast-tracked to the Pakistan national team. Eventually, he found a place in other formats, making it to the Test squad as well. His story was unconventional even by Pakistani standards, wherein he didn’t take the usual route through domestic cricket to make it big.
However, extra speed is always a double-edged sword. It takes a lot of effort to bowl regularly at that pace and if your control goes awry, that pace can become an ally to the best batters, assisting their gentle nudges or mishits towards the boundary.
In the few months preceding the T20 World Cup, Rauf’s bowling returns have worn a Jekyll and Hyde look. After a good first season in the PSL, where he picked 11 wickets at an economy of 7.41, Haris saw his numbers drop in the following two seasons. He picked 20 wickets at an ordinary average of 32.2, and his economy rate was a worrisome 10.06 in PSL 2020, and 9.67 in PSL 2021.
Closer to the T20 World Cup, he showed decent form in the National T20 Cup, albeit he was taken apart in one of the games by his national captain, Babar Azam, and ended up conceding 50 runs off his four overs.
His international record has been something of a mixed bag, too. He has 29 wickets at an average of 25.06 in T20I cricket, but his economy sits at 8.81. He has been on and off throughout his career, some very good performances dotted in between a number of average returns.
However, as he showed against India on Sunday, what works for Rauf is that he is a thinking bowler. He understands the need to keep varying his pace, be smart about the way he uses his slower balls, something he put to good use against India. Those slower balls, that he used to great effect against India, are a relatively recent addition to his arsenal. Only three years into his top-flight career, Haris is still very much a product in the works.
While Shaheen Afridi is one of the finest new ball bowlers in the world, Haris’s contribution comes in the later overs. Against India, he was introduced in the 11th over of the game.
He ended with figures of 1-25 from those four overs. At the death, he bowled two overs and gave away only 10 runs, completely limiting India’s scoring opportunity. While Afridi got the majority of the praise praise for getting India’s openers, Haris ensured that the opposition didn’t run away with the game in the second half of their innings.
These skills, which include mixing up his 150 kph out-and-out stock deliveries with slower ones at the right time, are what make him a special player for the side. This is the reason why he remained in the squad despite those mixed returns – he has the raw materials to be a difference-maker against the very best.