AnalysisThe Evolution of Haris Rauf Into One of the World’s Best T20 Bowlers

The Evolution of Haris Rauf Into One of the World’s Best T20 Bowlers

Pace, bounce, movement. Yorkers, bouncers, cutters. Haris Rauf has it all.

If you speak to a Pakistan cricket fan who saw Shoaib Akhtar bowl live, they would say the chills and vibes that came from watching the Rawalpindi Express run in and bowl at the speed of lightning were unmatched. Watching Shoaib Akhtar bowl at his best was peak Pakistan cricket. He might not be as fast as the 100mph legend, but another fast bowler from Rawalpindi also has that aura and emits fearsome vibes, and he is Haris Rauf.

Last year before the 2021 T20 World Cup, I wrote about how Pakistan could use Haris Rauf in the mega event. They ended up using him quite brilliantly; he was generally the go-to guy in the middle and death overs. When Shaheen Shah Afridi didn’t get an early wicket, he would get an over or two in the powerplay, as he did against New Zealand, probably his most memorable performance in 2021.

Powerplay Turnaround

The most interesting turnaround in Haris Rauf’s career began with the Asia Cup. Prior to that, Pakistan mostly played longer format cricket this year, and they had their talisman Shaheen Shah Afridi to lead them with the ball. However, with The Eagle ruled out of the Asia Cup, questions arose about the pace attack and who would fill the gaping hole left by the ICC Cricketer of the Year. As it transpired, Haris Rauf was the one who would put up his hand and finally become the all-phase demon he always had the potential to be.

Haris Rauf in T20I Powerplays

Before 2022 In 2022
28 Innings 23
33.5 Overs 36
8 Wickets 15
40.1 Average 17.0
9.5 Economy 7.1
25.4 Strike rate 14.4

With Shaheen unavailable, Rauf stepped up and became Pakistan’s attack leader, including a series of impressive displays in the powerplay. Until last year, he had natural away movement with the new ball but tended to miss his lines and be a little wayward. All that was put in the past as he combined movement with menacing accuracy to stunning effect, making him one of the most dangerous bowlers in all phases. In fact, his tearaway pace and movement with the new ball meant that he was one of the most potent new-ball assets in the tournament. Quite a turnaround from averaging 100 in T20I powerplays in 2021!

Most Powerplay Wickets in 2022 Asia Cup

Bowler Inns Wkts Avg Econ
Haris Rauf 5 6 10.3 6.9
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5 5 10.4 4.7
Naseem Shah 5 4 15.5 6.2

Death-Bowling Evolution

Haris Rauf’s performances in the death overs for Pakistan in 2021 were extraordinary, especially the variety of his skills for the slog overs, including but not limited to yorkers and slower ones.

Pakistan’s most memorable T20I victory came against India at the mega event last year, and the speedster played an important role in it. It’s often forgotten that when he came on to bowl his 3rd over (17th over of the innings), Virat Kohli was set, having faced 40 balls. The then-Indian captain was perfectly set up to launch; he strikes at 200+ in the last four overs of T20Is, over the huge sample size of the last five years. Rauf conceded just 4 runs off that pivotal over, and 2 of his 4 balls to Kohli were dot balls (resulting from cutters). He would return to concede just 6 runs off the final over of the innings, removing Hardik Pandya in the process.

One of the biggest reasons behind Lahore Qalandars’ success in PSL 7 was their death bowling. They were the only team to concede less than 10 RPO at the death in the latest edition of the Pakistan Super League. Their death economy of 8.3 across the season was a full 2 RPO fewer than the next best, Multan Sultans’ 10.4. All other PSL sides combined conceded in excess of 11 runs per over. Haris Rauf was a key part of that attack, bowling in tandem with his captain Shaheen Shah Afridi and Zaman Khan.

Two of the Qalandars’ most exciting wins in the title-winning season came against Islamabad United. United, on paper, had possibly the strongest middle order with the likes of Shadab Khan, Azam Khan, and Asif Ali. In both wins, death bowling played a major role. In the must-win encounter in Eliminator 2, United were 130/5, needing 39 runs in the last 5 overs. On the first ball of the 16th over, Rauf took the prized wicket of a set Alex Hales, then conceded only 4 runs off the rest of the over. In the penultimate over of the innings, he hit back after conceding a six by removing Asif Ali with a back-of-a-length delivery when 8 off 7 were required, delivering at a crucial moment. In the earlier group stage game in Karachi, he had outfoxed and dismissed a set Colin Munro with a slower ball in a similar situation. The PDP product showed his repertoire of all-round death-bowling skills, not over-relying on any one method.

Australia = Home & T20 World Cup

Most T20 Wickets for Pakistani Bowlers in Australia

Bowler Mats Wkts Avg SR Econ 5-fers
Haris Rauf 25 38 17.6 14.1 7.5 1
Naved-ul-Hasan 21 33 16.7 12.8 7.8 0
Yasir Arafat 16 27 17.4 13.6 7.6 0
Shadab Khan 17 18 19.2 17.0 6.8 0
Shahid Afridi 13 17 20.1 16.8 7.1 0
Umar Gul 6 15 11.1 9.2 7.3 0

Haris Rauf is one of the most prolific overseas bowlers in the Big Bash League in recent times, having taken a hat-trick and a 5-fer already and calling the MCG his ‘home ground’ due to the Melbourne Stars affiliation. Before the T20 World Cup, he gave an interview where he spoke about his BBL experience, drawing on what he learned from playing under Glenn Maxwell’s captaincy, who utilized the large square boundaries at the MCG by telling Rauf to bowl hard lengths and kept mid on and mid off up in the circle.

In the T20 World Cup, he continued to impress in all phases. The tournament began with the all-important clash against India, and the 150kph star duly delivered in his first over, removing Rohit Sharma with a good length delivery as Iftikhar Ahmed took a smart catch at slip. In the final over of the powerplay, he dismissed a rampaging Suryakumar Yadav in one of the standout moments of the tournament with a back-of-a-length hostile delivery at the body. At 3.4 overs and 2/24, he had more than played his part, but then the genius of Kohli took center stage.

Rauf didn’t let that setback impact him massively, however. In the next match against Zimbabwe, he removed captain Craig Ervine after a dangerous opening partnership. Against the Netherlands, he injured Bas de Leede with a sharp bouncer. After a couple of quiet games, he would be back to his best in the final. First, he removed Phil Salt with a hard-length ball and then took out the ever-dangerous Jos Buttler, getting steep bounce and movement from a good length to have him caught behind. For a while, Pakistan had hope that the trophy would be going back home with them. But it just wasn’t meant to be.

From being mockingly called a tape-ball bowler and a run machine to becoming Pakistan’s most reliable fast bowler, it’s been some journey for Haris Rauf. He bowled his heart out in both the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup, enhancing his death-bowling skills along the way while also beating batsmen on their defenses with pure fast-bowling – pace, bounce, and movement. The only thing missing was the trophy as Pakistan stumbled at the final hurdles.

Workload Management

A potential concern for Pakistan looming on the horizon is Haris Rauf’s workload. Injuries to Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim, and Shahnawaz Dahani at various times during the year meant that Haris Rauf rarely got any rest in white-ball cricket, while he also had a red-ball stint at Yorkshire.

Yet, the situation could become more critical. With Shaheen Shah Afridi unlikely to be fit for at least the first few Tests in the upcoming home season, rumors are that Haris Rauf will enter the Test arena as well. Going by the eye test of how he has been bowling and beating batsmen’s defenses, that does look like a good idea. However, playing all formats regularly alongside the PSL could take its toll on the fast bowler. With the ODI World Cup in India next year of critical importance, Pakistan must manage one of their most prized assets with utmost care.

The author

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