Melbourne is a cosmopolitan city in all respects; the interesting confluence of many cultures makes it a popular destination for all the tourists. Being the undisputed sporting capital of the world, it remains the cynosure of all eyes. The hallowed turf of ‘Melbourne Cricket Ground’ tests the mental strength of all the central characters in a game of cricket owing to the massive dimensions of the ground. It can be nerve-wracking to even watch a game there.
T20 World Cup 2022 got off to a rollicking start with the match between India and Pakistan amidst a see of blue and green at the ‘G. Virat Kohli’s superhuman rescue act gave the audience a match that will go down as a classic in the annals of international cricket. Virat Kohli’s back to back sixes in the penultimate over defied biomechanics and the full extent of human thought. The blows came against Haris Rauf, a man who has impressed the cricketing fraternity with his control over pace and temperament. So, those two match- winning strokes by Kohli redefined his greatness. No cricketing pundit can fault Rauf for those two deliveries.
It was just ‘godly’ batting.
A fleeting look at Haris Rauf is enough to convince one that he is an experienced international bowler. Interestingly, his journey so far in international cricket has been a short one. But, his exploits as a terrific pace bowler has been woven around his experience of playing in the ‘Big Bash league’ for Melbourne Stars and Lahore Qalandars in the ‘Pakistan Super League’.His experience of playing at the MCG has really served him well in the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup. And, Pakistan would be hoping that he delivers in the final against England at his familiar venue. The big square boundaries can really aid his style of bowling and Rauf would know how to exploit the conditions to the fullest.
It can be ascertained with confidence that Australia has played a key role in his growth as a premium fast bowler.
As a part of an exchange programme between Lahore Qalandars and Hobart Hurricanes, he spent a considerable period of time in Hobart, Tasmania representing Glenorchy CC during 2019. His sheer pace earned him a maiden call up to represent Melbourne Stars and he hasn’t looked back since. In fact, the coaching staff of the Stars including David Hussey was so impressed with the Rawalpindi born speedster that he was fast-tracked into the team even with the presence of South African legend, Dale Steyn.
Their belief received instant vindication as Rauf claimed a superb hat-trick against Sydney Thunders in just his fourth match for the franchise.
It goes without saying that Rauf thrives in Australian conditions especially at the MCG. So, when Pakistan will step out on the field against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to play the final of the T20 World Cup, they will be confident of repeating the performance of the 1992 World Cup final against the same opponents and at the same venue.
Since his debut in 2020, Rauf has managed to play more than 50 T20s and pick up 70 wickets. It is a real testimony to his superb fitness standard. In a short span, he has earned a superb reputation as a brilliant bowler especially in the death overs. The enviable trio of Shaheen, Rauf and Naseem will definitely lead the bowling charts in the years to come.
Though, Rauf has picked up only 6 wickets in the ongoing T20 World Cup, he can have a devastating effect on the English power hitters on Sunday. His disconcerting bounce and raw pace can make a deep impact on a lively MCG track.
The T20 World Cup, 2022 has witnessed some enthralling drama and it is set for a grand finish at the ‘G. It is bound to be a nail- biting contest as England will be upbeat after a resounding ten- wicket victory over the hapless Indians in the semi-final at Adelaide. And Pakistan will be confident of an encore of the 1992 World Cup final. Their all- round performance against the Kiwis in the semi-final has once again proved that Pakistan can script a dramatic turnaround at any situation.
Can Haris Rauf make all the difference for his team in the most important match?
Let’s wait patiently for a few more hours.