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Haris Rauf: Injury lay-off could be 'blessing in disguise'

Fast bowler returned to Pakistan ranks for second T20I at Edgbaston on Saturday

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Haris Rauf talks to the media ahead of the third T20I against England, England vs Pakistan, 3rd T20I, Cardiff, May 27, 2024

Haris Rauf talks to the media ahead of the third T20I against Pakistan  •  Getty Images

Elite athletes may have everything at their beck and call, but one thing they usually lack is time. In Pakistan cricket, no player has ever voluntarily taken time off from any kind of cricket - except to play cricket elsewhere during a calendar clash. Haris Rauf knows that better than anyone else after he decided to pull out of Pakistan's Test series in Australia to play the Big Bash, and paid for it with his central contract.
As he worked his way mending fences with his cricket board, any notion of voluntary time off was fanciful. But events took their course, and an untimely dive during the final over of the PSL's highest-profile match saw him dislocate his shoulder. He would be ruled out for three months, missing the remainder of the PSL, Pakistan's home series against New Zealand and away series in Ireland, and he only made his competitive return in Birmingham on Saturday.
All that time off, Haris acknowledges, may not have been such a bad thing. "I was injured the last few months but if you believe in yourself, then the layoff can be a blessing in disguise," he said at a press conference ahead of Pakistan's third T20I against England in Cardiff. "Because you have time to recover and reassess your gameplans. I felt good coming back to cricket. When you play for your country, it makes you very proud."
His comeback at Edgbastan was solid, if short of spectacular. He was the pick of the fast bowlers, taking two wickets for 34 in his allocated spell. It included an ill-advised Powerplay over - by far Rauf's weakest phase - that conceded 17. For the rest of his spell he maintained consistent pace and accuracy, and went at less than a run a ball while picking up two wickets.,
It wouldn't ultimately be enough as Pakistan fell comfortably short in the end. "When you lose a game it hurts, but as a team, we are confident," he said. "We feel we can beat any opposition on any day. We've done it in the past, too. When you make mistakes you learn and try not to repeat those mistakes. We're looking to play better in the next few games and make a comeback.
"The camp is relaxed. We're enjoying ourselves. We're trying to follow our gameplans and execute them well. The results haven't often been in our favour recently but if you stick to your plans they can sometimes follow."
Rauf also spoke of the psychological and physical struggles of returning from a long-term injury, particularly for a fast bowler - a topic that Naseem Shah also addressed recently. "It's hard," he said. "It's a struggle during your rehab, and it's difficult when you come back to maintain that pace and accuracy. But if you believe in yourself, it makes things easier. When I wasn't in the team and rehabbing, I had a lot of time to think about my game and work on myself. Thankfully I'm back now, and the World Cup is coming up."
Pakistan have ensured they get as much match practice as possible ahead of the World Cup; in 2024, they will have played 17 T20Is by the end of this series, in addition to the PSL. It has included experimentation with the top order, the bowling combinations, and indeed a change of captain. It hasn't all gone their way, with the 2-1 win in Ireland their only T20I series win since the 2022 World Cup.
Rauf admits winning the next two games would give Pakistan much-needed confidence, but insists these games are about more than just that. "Before the World Cup, if you win a series it gives you confidence, but even if you lose you understand where you made mistakes and you learn from them," he said. "This series is difficult, but we'll try to win it. The focus is of course on the World Cup, which we aim to win to make our country proud."

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000