Haroon Rasheed - Obituary
Haroon Rasheed, a wrist spinner who shot to prominence in his teens, passed away aged 58, in Lahore on 8 February, after years of stress related illness, whilst coming to terms with financial strains.
His plight is not so uncommon for cricketers in Pakistan, who don’t make it big and are left with few avenues to pursue an alternative career, to raise a family. The present scenario which only has six regional teams participating in domestic first-class, seems to have created even more uncertainty among players and coaches.
Born in Lahore (Punjab), Pakistan on 3 July, 1962, in a family that chose to migrate from Amroha, district Muradabad in the United Province, and settle in Pakistan. Haroon, the eldest of the four siblings, did his matriculation from Government Arif High School in 1978. He passed his intermediate studies certificate from Islamia College (Civil Lines) in 1980 but not before his hundred powered them to an unlikely win in an inter-collegiate final against arch rivals Government College, Lahore at Punjab University, Old Campus Ground. A successful run chase in access of 400 runs was achieved with Haroon, aka ‘Aaron’ and Shahrukh Sami, a double centurion, sharing 350 plus run stand, against an attack, led by reputed paceman, Saleem Piracha.
Following the passing away of his father Syed Ali Ahmed, a Railways employee, in 1982, there was all the more need for a mentor, which he found in Taher Shah, who guided him both on and off the field, till the very end. Haroon’s first competitive cricket was with Dharampura Cricket Club, one of the three teams in the locality, best known with the exploits of Abdul Qadir with Dharampura Gymkhana. It was only natural for Haroon to look up to the star leggie, whilst learning the art himself.
Haroon, justified his inclusion in the Lahore City A in the 1980-81 National u-19 Championship and helped his side to reach the final, only to lose to Karachi B. He had created enough impression to make his first-class debut for Lahore City (led by Ramiz Raja) in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
Few months down the line, Haroon had the touring Australian u-19, led by Laurie Potter, in a tangle with a return of 6-56 for BCCP Patron’s XI at Pindi Club Ground, making a strong case of being fast tracked into the second Mini ‘Test’ at Hyderabad. The 18-year old spun Pakistan u-19 to an innings win by claiming seven wickets in a televised match whilst wheeling away 72 overs of good control. By the time of the selection for the 1981-82 tour Down Under, Haroon was no longer an u-19 player, opening the door for his wrist spinning rival Ghaffar Kazmi, to bowl on Australian wickets.
Frustration had started to creep in for Haroon when he failed to secure any contract with one of the departmental teams. i.e. PIA, Habib Bank, National Bank, United Bank or Muslim Commercial Bank. His first five-wicket haul in first-class, was long time coming when it did arrive whilst representing Lahore City against Zone C at LCCA Ground in the 1985-86 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He along with Akram Raza and Sajjad Akbar, was one of the three spinners in the squad and at times was in the shadows of the two. Haroon’s two seasons with Railways were not as profitable as he would have liked it to be.
Haroon was asked to lead Lahore City Whites in the 1986-87 BCCP President’s Cup and responded by picking up a career-best 5-54 against PWD at LCCA Ground and followed it up with 5-115 against ADBP at Railways Stadium, Lahore. He only survived another season and at 25 was not wanted by any team in the domestic cricket.
After his exit from first-class, Haroon would carry on playing with Shining CC, run by Aamer Hayat Rokri (Chairman – East Zone LCCA) that offered employment to cricketers, till 1990. He also briefly played for Servis Industries, through the influence of Taher Shah. In the six-year period 1992-98 he worked as a coach with Garrison School, Lahore, developing youngsters and looking after the two turf pitches to be followed with similar work at Shafqat Rana Academy. At the time of his death Haroon was into his fourth year as a cricket coach with Aitchison College, Lahore. He is survived by wife and four daughters.
In his 32-match first-class career (1980-81 to 1987-88), representing Lahore and Railways, Haroon scored 401 runs @ 11.45 with 51 at number 10 for Lahore City against HBFC at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore in the 1987-88 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy as his only fifty, caught 9, took 61 wickets @38.44 with three five-wicket hauls.
Khalid Niazi, his LCCA colleague, shared his thoughts on Facebook,
‘Cricket is such a game that if it makes you laugh and give you happiness, then it makes you cry a lot among the millions of players who achieves their destination. If you are misled, life becomes very difficult. I saw Haroon Rasheed for the first time in 1980 when Australia under-19 team led came to Pakistan Captain Ramiz Raja has always been fan of leg spinners. ‘Aaron’ emerged as a very successful bowler and reached Pakistan camp. Unfortunately, despite being such a good all-rounder, he did not get an offer from a department.
‘In the race of life, he had been surrounded by problems. It was revealed that six months ago he suffered with kidney failure. The matter reached to dialysis on the morning of 8 February, and then he suffered a heart attack at home. He was taken to Jinnah Hospital but breathed his last on the way. The news of his death could not become the headline of any channel or newspaper. Only a friend shared the news on social media. So a very good player left this world continuously struggling. May Allah forgive the deceased and raise his ranks and make the best reasons for sponsorship of his family. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return’
The author is indebted to Usman Shrirazi, Khalid Niazi, Taher Shah and younger brother, Tariq Rasheed for their contribution in the obituary.
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