Stars expect Pakistan tearaway Rauf to play BBL opener

Oliver Caffrey |

The Melbourne Stars still expect Haris Rauf to play for them in the Big Bash League despite the explosive Pakistan quick’s reported issues in being cleared to play in Australia.

After missing the last edition of the BBL, Rauf has committed to the Stars for this campaign after making himself unavailable for Pakistan’s Test tour of Australia.

Rauf’s decision to join the Stars instead of playing red-ball cricket incensed Pakistan authorities, with newly appointed chief selector Wahab Riaz slamming the move.

Pakistan chief selector Wahab Riaz could delay Haris Rauf’s clearance to play for Melbourne Stars. (AP PHOTO)

“Of course there’s fatigue, but we were sure we could have managed that very well,” Riaz told reporters in Pakistan last week.

“But he (Rauf) pulled out at the last moment and he made himself unavailable. I think this will hurt Pakistan cricket.”

It appears Pakistan could block, at least temporarily, Rauf’s desire to link up with the Stars by failing to grant the 30-year-old a No-Objection Certificate (NOC).

ESPNcricinfo has reported Rauf’s NOC is almost certain to be delayed until at least December 11, four days after the Stars’ season-opener against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba.

Pakistan’s National T20 Cup runs until December 10 and authorities could force Rauf to play in that entire tournament given they are furious about ruling himself out of the Test tour.

When contacted by AAP, the Stars said they were “still expecting him (Rauf) to join us for the opening game until we hear otherwise”.

Rauf has played only one Test, when he was injured after bowling just 13 overs in Rawalpindi last December as England smashed 657 in their first innings at a run-rate of more than six an over.

But Rauf has been a revelation in white-ball cricket since bursting onto the radar in 2019-20 when the Stars pulled him out of club cricket in Tasmania.

In just his fourth BBL game, Rauf became an instant BBL cult hero when he claimed a hat-trick against Sydney Thunder in January 2020.

So excited by his expected return, the Stars are selling ‘House of Rauf’ memberships to capitalise on his popularity.

The Stars are planning to have a dedicated Pakistan bay during their first three MCG games of the season, with spinner Usama Mir joining his countryman Rauf in playing in Melbourne.

If Rauf isn’t cleared to play for the Stars it would be another massive blow for the BBL, with the top-two picks in the draft – Harry Brook (Stars) and Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers) – already having withdrawn.