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In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Rumman Raees spoke about his surprise call-up to the Pakistan squad in the midst of the 2017 Champions Trophy and discussed the importance of the youngsters' performances in Pakistan's tournament winning campaign.

By Amir Husain (23rd June, 2017)
 
Pakistan’s march towards their eventual victory in the 2017 Champions Trophy was one that will forever be used as an example of how teams can overcome overwhelming odds to achieve fantastic results.

At every stage of their campaign, Sarfraz Ahmed and co were presented with challenges that many other teams would have failed to overcome. However, the determination of this Pakistan outfit was such that they seemed to take all this in their stride and put in some amazing performances which culminated in Sarfraz Ahmed lifting the trophy on 18th June at The Oval. 

Along the way, as Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka to move to the semi-final of the tournament, the thought of facing a much stronger England team would have been looming large on the minds of the Pakistan team management. Apart from their strong bowling, England had at their disposal a batting line-up that could decimate any bowling attack they came across. Scores of 300 or more by Eoin Morgan’s new exciting England team were common and it was widely expected that Pakistan would suffer at the hands of the host-side’s batsmen.

It was, therefore, a shock to the system when on the morning of the semi-final against England, it was revealed that Pakistan's top strike bowler Mohammad Amir would not be able to play for Pakistan against England due to a back spasm. In his place, a relatively unknown pace-bowler, the 25-year-old Rumman Raees was given a ODI debut in the Pakistan side.

Rumman, who had taken 12 wickets in the 2017 edition of the PSL had previously played 2 T20Is for Pakistan but had no experience of playing One-Day games at the international level. He had been drafted in to the Pakistan squad to replace the injured Wahab Riaz and to many it was unlikely that he would get a game in the Champions Trophy. To then appear in an all-important do-or-die-clash for his country and put in a superb performance was something that Rumman was rightly proud of, as he explained in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net.
 
 
 
 
 
 
“It was a complete shock for me to be called in to join the squad for the Champions Trophy. I had come back after the West Indies tour and was busy in the 6th Corporate T20 Ramadan Cup in Karachi when I was asked to fly to England. I can only thank the Almighty for this amazing opportunity to impress everyone and perform for Pakistan as not only did I make history by becoming the first player to debut in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, but I also picked up the important wickets of Alex Hales and Liam Plunkett in the match against England.”
 
To be asked to step-in for a bowler of the quality of Mohammad Amir with the expectation to perform a wicket-taking role would have put immense pressure on any bowler but Rumman on his debut seemed to be having none of that.

“I was informed about my participation in the team just before the game as Mohammad Amir was still having pain in his back and to be honest, I did not feel any pressure at all. I knew that I had a job to do and I had the advice of the likes of Wasim Akram and others behind me who had told me to play just like I had in the Pakistan Super League. They had told me that the idea was to remain focused and perform based on what I know best, then there would be no pressure on me. I executed the plan that was given to me by our coach and captain for the England game and it seemed that the advice from my seniors worked really well.”

Another pleasing aspect of the Pakistan performance during the Champions Trophy was the way in which the fast-bowlers were able to put in match-winning performances. The group game against Sri Lanka was a good example of this new-found confidence amongst the pacers as they combined together to take all 10 wickets. In Rumman’s words, credit for this has to be given to the players as well as the guidance of Pakistan's bowling coach, Azhar Mahmood.

“All the fast-bowlers benefited from Azhar's advice and hard work with us during this tournament. As we know, I joined the squad later during the tournament but even then Azhar worked on my deficiencies such as my wrist position and that really helped me in the game against England. In addition, the reverse swing that we saw our bowlers use with such good effect as well as our ability to control the game during the death-overs are all direct results of Azhar’s work with the fast-bowlers.”

To be part of the Champions Trophy winning squad for Pakistan has been a great experience for Rumman and the whole team. On their return to Pakistan, all squad members have been feted like heroes and accorded a great welcome by fanatical fans. This is something which a young player like Rumman is indebted for.

“First of all, I would like to congratulate the whole nation for this victory. This is an occasion which is great for not only people in Pakistan but for all our supporters around the world. I can tell you that the last few days have been amazing for the whole squad. We have all been overpowered by the strength of emotions and support given to us by our people wherever we have gone in Pakistan which is really humbling for all of us.”

One of the key factors which impressed experts who saw the Pakistan turnaround from a near hopeless position after their loss to India in the opening game of the Champions Trophy was the manner in which the younger players responded to the challenge. Pakistan won four games in a row to win the Champions Trophy with telling contributions from the inexperienced players. To Rumman, the quality of contributions from the youngsters are a direct consequence of their participation in the Pakistan Super League.

“It was amazing to see how internationally inexperienced players, the likes of Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Fahim Ashraf and I were instrumental in our team’s success at the tournament. For that, I would like to give credit to the PCB for holding the PSL as that gave us such a great platform to learn and showcase our skills. The confidence we gained from playing in the PSL where we were given chances to perform in pressure games was invaluable and the results of that exposure were plain to see in the way we played in the Champions Trophy. The PSL played a huge part in the Champions Trophy victory.”

As the excitement of the victory settles down, Pakistan cricket supporters will be looking ahead to the future to see how the dividends from this victory can be utilised to bring more success in the future. Rumman Raees’s solid performance during the semi-final against England is one that has left a positive mark on the memories of Pakistani fans. Can Pakistan expect more of the same from the energetic and ebullient bowler in the future in ODIs? To Rumman, the personal success at the Champions Trophy is just the beginning of a phase of his career where he will look to improve his skills in the One-Day format and gain a permanent position in the Pakistan team, “I have made my debut in ODIs and my aim now is to put in match-winning performances and establish myself in T20Is as well as the ODI teams for Pakistan. For that to happen, I have made plans to improve my bowling skills and also work harder on my fitness, and give attention to my batting as well. All those plans are ready in my mind and I will look to execute these after the end of Ramadan, God Willing” he concluded.