Melbourne Stars have signed another uncapped Pakistan quick Dilbar Hussain as an overseas replacement player for Haris Rauf ahead of Saturday's BBL clash with Brisbane Heat.
Rauf has left the Stars to play for Pakistan in a three-match T20I series against Bangladesh starting in Lahore on Friday. Rauf is a chance to return for the Stars first final on January 31 but Hussain has been signed as an overseas replacement in the interim.
Hussain's path to the BBL is as unique as Rauf's. He is also part of the Lahore Qalandars development squad after previously working on agricultural land in his village near Faisalabad. He impressed Qalandars coach Aaqib Javed in his first hard ball game in Faisalabad in 2018 and toured Australia with the Qalandars development squad in the same year.
"It was the first time Dilbar played hard-ball cricket, the first time he was in a proper cricket stadium, and he displayed great passion for the game," Javed said.
Melbourne Stars' connection with the Qalandars comes through General Manager Nick Cummins, who was previously Cricket Tasmania's CEO. Cummins had been a key figure in firstly getting Rauf to Tasmania to play grade cricket before recommending him to the Stars' list manager Trent Woodhill and coach David Hussey and now Rauf's replacement has also come via the Qalandars development program.
However, unlike Rauf, he has not been playing club cricket in Australia. He only arrived on January 20 meeting up with the Stars in Sydney on the day of their clash with the Sydney Sixers. He then flew to Melbourne while the squad headed to Adelaide.
Hussain had a centre-wicket practice with former Stars player Michael Beer on Thursday in Melbourne and was added to the Stars' 13-man squad for their clash with the Heat at the MCG on Saturday. The Stars camp are excited by what he could bring as another strong fast bowler with a very deceptive change of pace.
Nathan Coulter-Nile also returns to the side and Glenn Maxwell will captain again after handing the reigns to Peter Handscomb for personal reasons for the game against the Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday.
But the Stars have suffered a blow with in-form opener Hilton Cartwright ruled out of the Heat clash with a fractured finger. He was hit in the nets by Coulter-Nile prior to the match against the Strikers. It is unknown whether he will be able to return for the finals as he is awaiting further advice from specialists.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne