Haris Rauf is under pressure, but he’ll come back strong: Babar Azam

Written by Sumit Seth

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is hopeful pacer Haris Rauf recovers in time for the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024, scheduled to be held in the United States and the West Indies next month.

Rauf, who had missed action for the last few months, including the recent New Zealand series, due to a disloaction in his shoulder, has been picked for Pakistan’s T20 World Cup preparations – the tour to Ireland and England after he had started bowling in the nets.

In the last six months, Rauf has been talking point after he pulled out of Pakistan’s Australia tour which later led to his central contract being ripped up, before an injury during the PSL and having his central contract reinstated again.

His return to the national side also has been met with criticism, but skipper Babar backed the pacer, who has nursed his way to fitness, to come good as Pakistan delayed the announcement of their 15-member T20 World Cup squad.

“Haris Rauf’s fitness is much improved; I wasn’t expecting him to recover so fast,” Babar said at the press conference before Pakistan left to Ireland for the three-match T20I series.

“He’s positive about his involvement in the tournament and very driven to succeed. There’s pressure on him because there’s been a lot of talk about him, but I think he’ll come back strong. When you come back from a rest, mentally, physically, you can create quite an impact.”

Another player’s selection which has been met with criticism is the inclusion of Hasan Ali, who last played a T20 international in 2022, instead of the likes of Zaman Khan or Mohammad Ali.

Babar, however, explained the reason for Hasan’s inclusion and added that there has been no injustice to anyone who have been omitted from the squad for Ireland and England series.

“There’s no injustice with anyone. We debated a lot on the World Cup combination and Hasan is there as back-up for Rauf because of his experience,” Babar added. “Zaman and Ali are new-ball bowlers but we already have enough new-ball bowling options.”

With the return of Mohammad Amir, who played in two T20s against New Zealand after ending his retirement, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Abbas Afridi, Pakistan’s new ball bowling options are stacked.

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Sumit Seth