October 25, Kathmandu. In the summer of 2017, three young men from an ordinary family traveled four and a half hours by road from Islamabad to Gujranwala to participate in an open cricket trolley.
But they arrived late and could not enter the stadium because of overcrowding. But they had no choice but to return home without participating in the cricket trial. A security guard let them in through a small gate. Thousands of young people were waiting in line at the entrance.
All three were young fast bowlers who had never played cricket with a season ball / leather ball. He was a professional ‘tape ball cricketer’ who played cricket all over Pakistan. In Pakistan, such people are also called ‘Tepia’.
They would agree to play cricket from any village, toll or club if they could afford to travel. He had never played cricket with a professional cricket ball nor could he have such a desire. They thought that it was possible only for those who had access. But they could not stop themselves from participating in the open trial organized by Lahore Calendars.
He could only run, he needed a healthy body for a fast bowler. They easily passed the initial trial. But only one of the three managed to reach the final round. By this time, the number of thousands had shrunk to just a dozen.
The competition was about bowling faster than right bowling. The ones who made it to the finals were Harris Rauf. The speed gun showed his speed was 92.3 miles per hour. The trial was attended by 500,000 players, including 145,000 bowlers.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has officially listed 3,822 clubs across the country with around 80,000 players on the field. In addition, unofficially millions of people are playing cricket every day which is never included in the official statistics.
Such a trial is a suitable place to produce players, Lahore Calendars started this trial in 2016. The trial covered the area from Rawalpindi to South Punjab. The trial was open to young people of all ages and backgrounds. Some came barefoot, some even came at the beginning of the shirt. Everyone was given ample opportunity to show their bowling and batting talents.
The players selected from each trial were divided into teams named after eight cities. After this, a competition was made between these eight teams and the best 15 players were selected and a new team was formed.
The team not only had the opportunity to play against clubs inside Pakistan but also to compete in a club cricket tournament held in Australia. Soon after, they won a T20 tournament in 2018 in Abu Dhabi. In which South Africa’s top T20 team Titans also participated.
“It takes you a few seconds to recognize any talent in the world,” says Akib Javed, a Calenders instructor and head of the trial program. The same is true in cricket, if you know what you are looking for, you will know after looking at three balls whether you have basic talent or not. This is exactly what we are doing in our program. Hundreds, thousands of people come to our trial and all of them are systematically filtered. ‘
As Javed has said before, “The process of choosing a good person is very complicated. We are not looking for trained players. We look for raw talent to show our potential and we can invest in them. Rauf bowled at a speed of 92.3 miles per hour in the trial, which was not uncommon. We saw the potential in him but he needed to be trained. He had the speed, but he needed two years of proper training to become a good bowler, which we gave him. ‘
Until the age of 23, Rauf had no experience of hardball. He lived near Diamond CC, one of the largest cricket clubs in Islamabad. But he never wanted to go to these clubs.
Rauf, the son of a welder working in the public works department, was in the process of completing his IT degree after completing his intermediate level before cricket took over his life. He worked as a salesman in a mobile shop. He also played tape-ball cricket to earn extra money. He didn’t have a special team that would give him enough money, he would play for that team.
If your team needed a yorker on every ball, you could call Rauf. He was readily available. The team that paid him the most would play for him. He used to earn around Rs 80,000 from one game. Since such a game is not always played, the income would not be fixed. So those days were both good and bad for him.
His parents did not want him to become a cricketer. Because it was a risky career. He guessed that he needed someone’s recommendation to reach the top in this game. It is a game played by an elite and played by workers.
Rauf also almost agreed. Cricket was just a means of entertainment and earning money for him. However, becoming a cricketer was also a dream of his. But, because of the risk, he tried to keep himself away from this dream.
In an interview with ESPN Cricinfo in 2019, he said, “I have not given any other trial. I did not believe that the trial would go well and that I would be selected. That’s why I never played hard-ball club cricket because I thought they would take their own people forward. When the Lahore Calendars also came for the Rawalpindi trial very close to my house, I did not go for the trial because I was busy playing a tape-ball. ‘
He added, “But my friend took me to Gujranwala for that trial. We were all in the mood to hang out and have fun. In fact, no one was serious about the trial. But when the trial started, we gave our all. A friend of mine bowled at a speed of 87 or 88 miles per hour. I wanted to go beyond that. I threw the ball at a speed of 92.3 miles per hour. Akib Bhai (coach) got his eye on it and I was selected. It was just a matter of force. ”
After this, the club signed an agreement with Rauf. On behalf of the Calendars he was given a rigorous training and nutrition plan and Akib paid personal attention to him. He was then sent to Australia to play club cricket under a development program. He made his debut for the Calendars in 2018 against the Hobart Hurricanes and took one wicket for 23 runs in the opening win against the Titans. He made his PSL debut in the 2018-19 season, taking 11 wickets in 10 games.
He also got a chance to play in the Big Bass League in Australia the same year. The game was nothing short of magical for him. He replaced the injured Dale Steyn with the Melbourne Stars. Samin Rana, one of the owners of Calendars, recommended to the Melbourne Stars team management to take Rauf. He had said, “If Rauf fails, I will never listen to him again.” Rauf was in Australia at the time.
Not only did he play that season, he became the star cricketer of the season. Rauf played 10 games and bowled consistently fast in each game and took 20 wickets with an excellent strike rate of 11.3. He scored a hat-trick this season. After returning home, he received an ‘Emerging Central Contract’ from the PCB within two months.
Akib says, ‘He is special. He knows what he is doing and what to do next. I know many such talents who soon lose their Arjuna vision. But Rauf is not like that. It’s one thing to be talented and quite another to stick to it. Rauf is the second type of bowler. I want her to stay that way in the future. ”
For a tape-ball cricketer playing cricket in the street, playing in a cricket stadium is a big deal. He could only think of such a thing in a dream. It’s all like a dream that four years ago a cricketer who had never played cricket from a professional cricket ball is playing in the World Cup today.
“I am proud and happy that the Lahore Calendars have given Pakistan cricket a superstar and a valuable talent,” he said.