“We had our trials in Gujranwala, when I heard our then coach calling me to come and showed me the speed gun. It read 92 miles per hour and I thought to myself, who is this?” said Aaqib Javed of Lahore Qalanders as he recalled seeing Pakistani pacer Haris Rauf bowling for the first time in 2017.
Rauf almost failed to show up at the open cricket trails Gujranwala as he along with his friends were stuck in a traffic jam after embarking from Islamabad.
In an ESPNcricinfo documentary on Rauf, he said that they arrived late and the gates were shut but they found their way to an unmanned entrance. After breaking the lock, they joined thousands waiting for their turn in the nets.
“They [organisers] were selecting those bowlers who were bowling with 83 to 84 miles per hour speed. When my turn came, I bowled the first delivery with 88 miles per hour. The management thought the speed gun had malfunctioned. I went on to bowl with a speed of 92.3mph after which Aaqib Javed told me to step aside,” he added.
Growing up, Rauf used to play street cricket with the tape ball, which his father did not allow as the family was more focused on getting him an education for a better future.
“At times, I would get beatings three times a day from my father. I would be quiet for a bit and then go out to play again. I used to keep my trousers and kit with a friend of mine,” he said.
While he had a passion for cricket, tape-ball cricket was also a means for Rauf to earn money to support his family and also to pay his tuition fees.
“After matriculation, I used to work in the market, selling snacks on Sundays. The rest of the week I would attend school and academy,” he said.
Before playing with a cricket ball, Rauf was already a star in the local tape-ball cricket as he played across the country in different tournaments.
“However, I knew it had an end and there was no long-term benefit. I have seen many professional tape-ball cricketers and how difficult their lives were,” he said.
So, when he was offered a chance at the Lahore Qalandars’ development programme, he gave up tape-ball cricket to turn his focus toward professional cricket.
After two years of training and bowling as a net bowler during which he also bowled to India’s Virat Kohli, Rauf was introduced to the cricket world when he first played for Lahore Qalanders in the Pakistan Super League in 2019.
He took four wickets by conceding 23 runs in his four over against Karachi Kings in that match.
Sameen Rana, owner of Lahore Qalanders, said Rauf got a man of the match award for his performance in his first game for the Qalanders.
“When me and Aaqib went in [dressing room], the guy [Rauf] completely broke down in tears. Those were pure emotions,” he added.
For Rauf, the memories of his struggle to get to the stage and the level of appreciation made him emotional.
The same year, he got the opportunity to step in the shoes of his idol Dale Steyn when the South African pacer was unable to arrive on time for the first match in Australia’s Big Bash League.
After giving a splendid performance in his first game, he secured a contract from Melbourne Stars for the rest of the season. A team he has taken a hat trick for in the third game.
Rauf made his debut for Pakistan in a series against Bangladesh in 2020 and since then, he is an integral part of Pakistan white ball cricket.