New Rawalpindi Express sets sights on T20 World Cup
Catapulted to stardom by his exploits in the Big Bash, Haris Rauf has one goal in mind before all others – representing Pakistan next year in Australia
22 December 2019, 07:49 PM AEST
Haris Rauf, the new Rawalpindi Express, has set his sights on next year's T20 World Cup announcing himself on the international stage with a sensational start to his KFC BBL career.
Rawalpindi-born Rauf was playing tape ball in the city a few months ago, and last weekend was bowling with Tasmania club side Glenorchy.
But yesterday cemented himself as the BBL's newest cult hero with a sensational four-over spell that netted him 5-27 and the BKT Golden Cap as the competition's leading wicket taker so far.
It spearheaded the Stars' 52-run demolition of the Hobart Hurricanes in Moe on Sunday, and came just two days after he took 2-20 on debut in a win over the Brisbane Heat on the Gold Coast.
Rauf's rags-to-riches tale has taken the cricket world by storm after the Stars selection catapulted him into the international spotlight.
Rauf's tale is quickly becoming well known – he previously spoke of breaking a lock to sneak into an open trial for the Lahore Qalanders in 2017, where he won a spot on the Pakistan Super League franchise's player development programme by delivering 150km/h thunderbolts.
On his third stint to Australia to play club cricket when the Stars plucked him from obscurity, he had already been on an upward trajectory, previously training alongside the likes of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, and starring with a four-wicket haul for the Qalanders last February in the PSL.
Congratulations ICC Num 1 Ranking Batsmen👏👏 pic.twitter.com/mOAQgnWm0b— Haris Rauf (@HarisRauf14) September 7, 2019
Now though, with a taste of the big-time, he's set his sights on making the national team.
"The T20 World Cup is coming up in Australia and I'm trying to get fit for that," Rauf said through teammate Sandeep Lamichhane, with the Nepalese leg-spinner acting as a translator.
"I'm hoping to represent my country, Pakistan, in bigger levels. That's my only dream, to play for my country."
Rauf exuberantly celebrated each of his five wickets against Hobart and finished the day on a touching note by signing the match ball and gifting it to a security guard.
"I gave that ball to one of the Punjabi guys from India because when I arrived at the ground I told him I was from Pakistan, and that guy just cried and hugged me," Rauf said through Lamichhane.
"That's why I got emotional and gave that ball to him."
Rauf, 26, was plucked from Tasmania's first grade T20 competition on the eve of the season as a replacement for South Africa pace bowling legend Dale Steyn who arrived in the country with a side strain.
But Steyn's impending return from a side strain has put Rauf's spot in jeopardy, with BBL teams only allowed to field two international players at once.
But clubs are allowed to have up to four internationals on their books, and Rauf will now remain with the Stars for the remainder of the season.
Steyn is on a short-term contract, with Lamichhane and English fast bowler Pat Brown, the Stars' original plan to replace Steyn, also on the clubs' roster.
Steyn today declared he was fit to play the Moe match against Hobart, but the Stars had left him out of the squad of 13 they are required to submit by 2pm the day before the match, meaning there was no recourse to include him at the last minute.
"I was really keen to play today," Steyn said pre-match. "I think the 24-hour rule kind of does you in a little bit.
"I wouldn't have minded waking up today, coming to the ground, having a little bowl and then giving the thumbs up. I've gone through my warm-ups and bowled and I'm fine, but it's obviously too late now."
Stars teammate Peter Handscomb lauded Rauf's energy and spirit and said he had quickly won his new teammates over after a rocky start.
"He's a good lad, he's come in and got around the boys straight away, which is great to see. He's having fun, you can have a joke with him, which is great," Handscomb said while mic'd up on the match telecast.
"He wanted to impress straight up so he was coming in and bouncing all the blokes
"I think he got a few blokes offside, but he's won them over pretty quick the way he was bowling the other night.
"He's just a good lad."
Melbourne's next match is on December 27 against the Adelaide Strikers back at the Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium.