Regarded as one of the quickest bowlers in Pakistan, Haris Rauf has fast progressed from a promising talent who learnt his cricket by playing with a tape-ball to someone who is currently regarded as an integral part of his country's white-ball sides. Haris recently rose to fame with his performances in the 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup and has 61 wickets in 46 international games.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Haris spoke about his current County Cricket stint at Yorkshire, the advantages for upcoming cricketers of the partnership between Lahore Qalandars and Yorkshire, why he feels that his performances in the 2021 T20 World Cup have proved to be a turning point in his career, what impressed him most about Vernon Philander’s coaching and what the tour by Australia to Pakistan after a long gap of 24 years meant for his countrymen and the impact the visit had on his own game.
By Amir Husain (24th May, 2022)
PakPassion.net: What are you looking to achieve this season with Yorkshire in County Cricket?
Haris Rauf: The excellent standard of County Cricket in England is well known to all around the world, but for me the main aim was to refine my skills in red-ball cricket. So, the idea has been to learn how to bowl with more control and get a good understanding of what I need to adjust in my technique to bowl well in English conditions. I am also hoping that the experience of playing 4-Day cricket here will prove to be useful for me to take into international cricket, whenever the need arises.
PakPassion.net: Tell us about what you feel will be the benefits of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club-Lahore Qalandars partnership?
Haris Rauf: I believe this is a great idea as it will help promote local talent in Yorkshire in the same way we have done in Pakistan with the Qalandars Player Development Program. This will be a great opportunity and platform for talented youngsters from Yorkshire to go over to Lahore and train there and will provide the same advantage and opportunity for players from Pakistan who will come over to Yorkshire. If the youngsters can make use of this opportunity where they can train at world-class facilities and experience cricket in different conditions, then many doors can open for them in the future including playing in different leagues around the world and also give them a chance to play in County cricket as well.
PakPassion.net: How crucial is playing in County cricket for your future chances of playing Tests for Pakistan?
Haris Rauf: Every cricket player aspires to represent their country in what is considered the highest form of the game which is Test cricket. There is no doubt in my mind that I am learning a lot by
playing County cricket as the experience I get here will be crucial for my future aspirations to play Test cricket. The sort of things I have picked up so far and what is crucial for my development in red-ball cricket are centred around building up patience and assessing conditions and the opposition which will help in taking wickets, in different conditions.
PakPassion.net: Would you say that your performances in last year’s ICC T20 World Cup could prove to be a turning point in your career?
Haris Rauf: For any professional cricketer, each format of the game represents a different challenge, each match is equally important, especially when you are representing your country. In each format, there are changes in strategy, in how you approach the game and in the style of play as well as different conditions to contend with. For me, the T20 World Cup in UAE was a hugely motivating experience. This was the first ICC event I was taking part in and most importantly the selectors put faith in me to represent Pakistan at this big platform. My intention was to do my best, to put in my best effort and thankfully I got the rewards with 8 wickets to my name against some tough opponents.
PakPassion.net: Whilst your pace has impressed all, some critics feel that you are wayward in terms of line and length.
Haris Rauf: One must understand that the shorter formats of the game which I usually play in, there are different challenges that I have to face as a bowler. For a start, the batters are always looking to score quick runs off you in the shortest amount of time, so you have to consistently be on top of your game to try and out-think them. What this means is that if you continue to bowl at the same line then it’s very likely that the batter will figure out your tactics and score runs with ease. You then have to vary your line, length and speed, bowl a yorker or bowl a bouncer to counter this and it is possible that in doing that, to some, my bowling appears as wayward.
PakPassion.net: What changes are you looking to make to your bowling to overcome issues with accuracy?
Haris Rauf: For me the most important objective is to not give away runs when I am not able to take a wicket. The aim is to bowl dot balls as much as possible when I am not taking wickets, and it really comes down to whatever it takes to achieve my aims. The idea is always to bowl with as much variety as possible and save runs or take wickets, but I am aware that I need to improve myself. I have made good progress but I am working on my weaknesses. This is why my experience such as that at Yorkshire where I am working with an experienced coach like Otis Gibson is crucial for me. Whether it’s in the white-ball or red-ball format, rest assured that I am working hard to ensure that my bowling gets better and better and am hoping that we will see the results of that in the future.
PakPassion.net: Vernon Philander was full of praise for you, how did you find the experience of his coaching?
Haris Rauf: We were very fortunate to have the services of someone like Vernon Philander who apart from being an amazing performer in his playing days was also a great fast-bowling coach for us during his stint in the ICC T20 World Cup. Personally speaking, in today’s cricket, one will be exposed to many different coaches depending on whether you are playing for your national side or for a league or a County team. The challenge for me is to learn and make the maximum use of such opportunities as these can really improve you as a cricketer. The work that Philander put in with us during the tournament was amazing. He not only helped us in the nets but what proved most beneficial for us were his insights on the right mindset that we needed to have to bowl well and win games. The experiences he shared with us throughout the tournament obviously helped us to progress, but the true value of his advice will hopefully be visible to us in the future.
PakPassion.net: How important was the tour of Australia for the development of cricket in Pakistan?
Haris Rauf: To have a side such as Australia visit us in Pakistan and that too after a 24-year gap was truly a huge event for which we are all grateful. For our crowds to watch their own side take on a world-class team on their home soil must have been a wonderful experience. There would be many in the crowd who would have been inspired by watching their heroes take on a high-quality Australian outfit and we could see the effects of that in the future with more talent coming through the ranks to hopefully represent Pakistan. Purely in terms of the entertainment value of watching top names of world cricket compete hard in front of them is something I am sure many in the crowd will remember forever and would have thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
PakPassion.net: What was your experience of playing against Australia on home-soil?
Haris Rauf: Personally speaking, the opportunity to play against a strong side like Australia was a great experience. For a professional cricketer, you can understand your own weaknesses and how to improve yourself further when you play a top-notch side. The pressures you go through and the amount of hard-work needed to take on the best is something you can only experience when you play at that competitive level and I am glad that I took 6 wickets in that series and was given the chance to prove myself by the selectors and the team management.