ABU DHABI: When a 23-year-old Haris Rauf had walked into Gujranwala's stadium in September 2017, he had never thought he would become the talk of the town after his match-winning spell.
All eyes were on Rauf on Saturday evening when he bowled the final over for Lahore Qalandars against South African side Multiply Titans in the finale of Abu Dhabi T20.
With internationals Chris Morris and Albie Morkel on strike, Titians wanted 19 off final six deliveries to be bowled by the Pakistani rookie.
The youngster kept his nerves perfectly under control and went ahead to deliver one of the best overs of his career, conceding just four runs. Taking the wicket of Albie Morkel has turned him into an overnight hero.
“It was a like a dream that came true for me,” the young cricketer told Geo.tv.
“I am with the Lahore Qalandars for the past one year and they have put a lot of effort to transform my game. Today I gave my best and I’m happy that I had a role in making the Qalandars victorious,” Rauf said.
Rauf had never played cricket with hard-ball before being picked by Aaqib Javed in the rising stars trials at Gujranwala in 2017.
Back in Rawalpindi, Rauf — son of a government servant — used to work at a shop as a part-time salesman where his daily earning was around Rs250. He also made some extra cash by playing tape ball cricket.
“I had never thought that I would play like this one day and all credit goes to Lahore Qalandars,” he said.
Rauf also travelled to Australia last year with the Lahore Qalandars squad where his talent helped him earn a contract with Hawksberry Cricket Club.
Qalandars' head coach and director cricket operation Aaqib Javed is all praises for Rauf.
“Haris is a future superstar and I’m very confident that he can break Shoaib Akhtar’s record of fastest bowling,” Javed told Geo.tv. "He has the potential and ability to become the world’s fastest bowler."
For Rauf, this encouragement and motivation from Javed means everything.
“The way Aaqib bhai [brother] supports me and encourages me is remarkable. It is because of his motivation that I have finetuned my bowling skills,” he said.
The 24-year-old now aims to play for Pakistan and Pakistan Super League (PSL).
“My first target is to play PSL for Lahore Qalandars and after that, I will try my luck with the national team. God willing, one day I will represent Pakistan,” he said.
Rauf's emergence as a hero out of nowhere adds credibility to Lahore Qalandars' player development programme, which has produced several other notable players.
The programme also shows the Pakistan Cricket Board how a player can be effectively spotted and developed.