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Hat-trick hero Haris Rauf on verge of Pakistan call-up

Haris Rauf (Melbourne Stars)

It is amazing that just three years ago, Rauf had no plans of representing Pakistan and had not played with the season ball. With some guidance from PSL's Lahore Qalandars and Aaqib Javed, the pacer now finds himself on the verge of a Pakistan call-up.

Haris Rauf was unearthed by Pakistan Super League franchise Lahore Qalandars three years ago in open trials. The pacer took 11 wickets in 10 matches for the Qalandars in the last PSL edition at an economy rate of 7.41, with the best of 4/23 against Karachi Kings.

Rauf was sent by Qalandars to Australia in order to bag a Big Bash League contract for Hobart Hurricanes. However, that could not materialize.

Instead, after his idol Dale Steyn had a shoulder niggle towards the end of the Mzansi Super League, Melbourne Stars decided to rope in Rauf as his cover. And then unfolded the classic case of one man's misfortune is another's fortune. As English pacer Pat Brown was ruled out of the tournament due to injury, Rauf found himself an extension.

As it turned out, the 26-year-old had a great start to the tournament with 7 wickets, including a 5-wicket haul, in his first two games. Despite that, given BBL's two foreign player limit, he had to sit out for a couple of games to accommodate Steyn.

But with a hat-trick against Sydney Thunder in the last game, he has almost turned himself undroppable now. The pacer dismissed Daniel Sams, Callum Ferguson and Matthew Gilkes off consecutive deliveries in the last over to help the Stars to a six-wicket win.

Rauf is currently the top wicket-taker for his franchise Melbourne Stars and the second highest on the wicket charts in the ongoing season of the Big Bash League. From 4 innings, Rauf has picked up 13 wickets at an astonishing average of 7.84 and an economy of 6, with best match figures of 5 for 27.

It is a surprise that Rauf, for all his talent, has played only three first-class matches till now, in which he has picked up seven wickets. The case in list A games is no different with him having picked up 7 wickets from 4 matches.

It is amazing that just three years ago, Rauf had no plans of representing Pakistan and had not played with the season ball. But his potential came through even via his tennis ball cricket. With some motivation and guidance, the pacer now finds himself on the verge of a Pakistan call-up.

"I know I have proved my potential and my next goal is to play for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup, which is also in Australia. I never really planned my future in cricket. I grew up playing with a tennis ball until 2017, and never thought that I could play for Pakistan. 

"But this dream was given to me by Lahore Qalandars and Aaqib Javed's persistence with me gave me direction. He has been a driving force for me. I had a feeling that a pure fast bowler bowling over 140kph can't be ignored in Pakistan. I have the pace, the passion, and with all the development I started to believe that I can play top-level cricket," Rauf says.

It is exciting times for the 26-year-old as as no one else but Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis himself has been "impressed" by his performances. Younis has also consulted Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq and it may be not long before Rauf finds himself in the mix.

“I watched him at the Pakistan Super League and was impressed by him. He possesses pace, he’s a smart bowler who is aggressive which I really like about him and I’m really glad that he has done well at the Big Bash League. He’s a strong lad, who has been working very hard on his fitness and he bowls a really good slower-ball.

"I’ve spoken to Misbah-ul-Haq about him and we are thinking about bringing him into our pack of pace-bowlers, working with him and hopefully we can push him into the Pakistan team soon,” Waqar said in a recent interview.

With uncertainty looming over the Bangladesh tour, the next big T20I series that Pakistan are scheduled to play is a three-match affair again England around August-September. This will be followed by the Asia Cup. Rauf has a realistic possibility of making it to the team by then.

The Pakistan Super League will also begin shortly, after the BBL comes to a close and consistent performances in these two tournaments will go a long way in ensuring Rauf's Pakistan call-up.

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