Haris Rauf spends a great deal of time answering queries about Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, as if he were the eldest son with precocious younger siblings, condemned to only speak about them.
He enters the press conference room shortly after receiving his Player of the Game trophy at the awards ceremony.
What are your thoughts on the rapport between you, Afridi, and Naseem? Rauf begins ecstatically by speaking about the importance of mutual confidence, their shared connection, and how cohesive teams require this type of relationship.
The next step is prepared. You rely on acceleration, whereas Afridi and Naseem utilize seam and swing. Does this render you impervious to adversity?
It does not, he assures everyone, before reiterating how well Afridi and Naseem are performing and how additional velocity can prove costly.
However, there is more. How do you feel when they take wickets? Under duress or assured? It is a tricky topic that forces Rauf to choose between attributing even some of his wickets to Afridi and Naseem’s brilliance or claiming that their potent early starts work against him. He has the grace to chuckle and gushes about how their qualities make him personally happy.
We are assured that only two doubts remain. There is one regarding the weather, and another regarding the weekend’s rematch with India.
His four victims, which were as many as Afridi and Naseem’s combined in this match, are not mentioned. Before leaving, he expresses gratitude to everyone, acknowledges some old acquaintances, and stands up.
Rauf is a native of Rawalpindi and has never feigned otherwise. When he emerged on the T20 scene as a result of Lahore Qandars’ player development program, he was still excitingly raw around the margins. He never desired such aggression.
Shoaib Akhtar has made a second career out of eulogizing on television, with obnoxious and unconventional farewells. In the 2019 PSL season, he inexplicably serenaded Dan Christian after he was run out.
In 2020, while defending six off the final delivery against England in a Twenty20 International, he furiously shooed captain Babar Azam away when he came over too frequently to whisper strategy in his ear. During a 2022 PSL match, he jokingly struck Kamran Ghulam for a fumbled catch off of his bowling.
His fiery farewell to Ishan Kishan in this Asia Cup reminded everyone that even though some of these edges have been honed, glimmers remain, as evidenced by his dismissal of Kishan.
However, many fast bowlers are unable to turn off this mode when they leave the field, which makes their behavior considerably more disagreeable.
In Pakistan, this type of toxicity is frequently observed in men in Rauf’s position, whose jealousy exceeds their sense of safety when younger people receive more praise and accomplish greater success. Almost every Pakistani in every profession is familiar with this circumstance, particularly in the workplace.
Rauf is an exception, but sport is not. Afridi, Naseem, and Rauf – and this is always the order in which they are mentioned – are referred to as a triumvirate of young tearaways, but while Afridi is 23 and Naseem has just begun to take his first steps into his 30s, Rauf will turn 30 in two months.
Although he may be the fastest of the three, there is little doubt that he has reached his prime, whereas the other two almost undoubtedly still have their prime years ahead of them.
This realization may bring out the worst in lesser men, but Rauf is devoid of the resentment that frequently deteriorates competitive relationships.
In the middle overs of an ODI innings, his captain entrusts him with one of the most unglamorous tasks in all of cricket: finding a means to make something happen.
Afridi and Naseem had waltzed in against India, taking their choice of end and conditions, thereby ensuring they would be the story regardless of what transpired after the first hour.
Rauf stepped in immediately after the rain break and promptly scored 12 runs in the first inning. The workloads of Afridi and Naseem were limited, so he was the one who took the next two wickets and shattered the fifth-wicket partnership in the middle overs, causing a mini-collapse.
He had two wickets in his first seven deliveries against Bangladesh on Wednesday, but the focus was once again on one of his teammates.
Naseem had dived in response to Afridi’s bowling, then left the field grimacing and gripping his arm. Rauf was preoccupied with the present, while Pakistan fretted over his potential injury and their near-term future.
Rauf had just taken his 50th and 51st ODI wickets for Pakistan, making him the third-fastest Pakistani to reach that milestone.
Since he made his One-Day International debut in October 2020, these three fast bowlers will comprise Pakistan’s top three wicket-takers in the format.
Afridi’s average and strike rate are lower than those of Rauf, who has 53 wickets to their 43 and 32, respectively, and a higher strike rate.
Those included two at the close of Bangladesh’s innings, when they eliminated another established batter, Mushfiqur Rahim, and then Taskin Ahmed.
And in that over lied a second scarcely observed act of mateship. Naseem hadn’t taken a wicket since the injury worry, but Rauf set the tail up for him so that he could take the necessary shot in the arm.
Babar introduced him into the attack, and four deliveries later, Naseem had taken two more wickets, denying Rauf a five-wicket haul that he probably did not care about.
A couple of weeks ago, the PCB assembled the pace triumvirate for an internal video interview following Pakistan’s dismissal of Afghanistan for 59.
On that day, he took five wickets, his only ODI five-wicket haul to date. When Rauf was queried about his performance, which had earned him Player of the Match that day, the atmosphere was lighthearted and jovial.
Afridi and Naseem could scarcely make out his words. They shared an inside joke – perhaps one Rauf was too old to comprehend – while clasping hands and giving each other a side embrace with enormous grins on their faces. Rauf was pointing at them and explaining that he had learned what length to bowl by observing what they were doing.
Still chuckling, he wraps his arm around them both. He could speak about these younger children for hours on end.
Rauf stated at a post-Bangladesh press conference, “This is how teams are formed and how they bond.”