Haris Rauf has been on the selectors' radar for quite some time but the staggering performances latterly in the Big Bash League (BBL) compelled selection committee to rope him in for the T20I series against Bangladesh, set to get underway from January 24 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
The 26-year-old live wire had a dream run in the BBL where he trampled over Hobart Hurricanes batting line-up by picking his first T20 fifer and flummoxed batsman with his hostile pace and accuracy.
He has proven to be a good omen for his side Melbourne Stars as he quickly climbed up the pecking order and became the frontline bowler for the franchise. The fiery pacer is relieved after finally getting an opportunity to represent Pakistan at the highest level.
"I feel privileged to get a chance to represent Pakistan. It's a great moment for me to get picked and I was overjoyed when I heard the news of my selection. Performing in Big Bash [League] and performing for the country are two separate things though," said Haris.
Haris wasn't caught completely by surprise after hearing the news of his selection as he claims that he was always confident about getting a chance if he keeps performing well.
"Look when you perform at any stage, then obviously your performance gets regarded. I was performing and I had an idea that if Bangladesh team comes to Pakistan then I might get selected."
Like many other players who have donned the national jersey, Haris also started his cricket by playing tape-ball cricket in the streets of Rawalpindi and he made it big in tape ball cricket before playing the game professionally.
"I have played professional cricket before and when I got selected in the [Lahore Qalandars] trial, I left tape ball cricket. I have been playing hard ball cricket for two years and doing well [in it] that's is why I am getting an opportunity to represent Pakistan and I aim to continue my good form."
The strike bowler does not want to be limited to T20 cricket and seeks to transition to other formats in the long run which sounds sweet music to ears considering how a growing tribe of players want to make easy money by limiting themselves to the glitzy world of T20 leagues.
"When you come to the national team you always strive to serve for a long time and you want to make a name for yourself. My focus is to represent Pakistan in all formats," remarked Haris.
Pakistan was handed 3-0 drubbing by Sri Lanka in the same venue last year against what many people regarded as a second-string Sri Lanka side and perhaps the added pressure of winning at home contributed in a lop-sided affair but Haris thinks that players ought to use the home conditions to their advantage.
"It's our home series and in front of the home crowd, we get a boost so this should not result in added pressure [for a player] but it should rather be taken positively and I will try to use [home advantage] to good effect.
"It's our home series and I feel proud that I will make a debut at home and it's my target to become the player of the series. I would like to continue my BBL form."
Haris has got a typical tearaway fast bowler attitude and got swagger which, come to think of it, often lacks in the current crop of Pakistan quicks, but Haris' throat-slitting celebration in BBL was construed over the top.
The young sensation, however, made amends quickly after he received social media flak and once he reflected on his celebration. He speared a supernova in a BBL match that wrecked the stumps, got the zingers flying in the air as he got one through the gate of Daniel Sams which sent Haris into a frenzy and brought about the fired up celebration.
The Rawalpindi born aims to perfect reverse swing and wants to gain control like Waqar Younis used to have. Waqar used to nail the perfect sandshoe crusher in his heyday and needless to say Haris could master the yorker in the incumbent bowling coach's company. He didn't forget to acknowledge the work that Aqib Javed had put in his development as a bowler during his time with Qalandars.
"I have worked with Aqib Bhai for two years and I have got a chance to work with Waqar [Younis]. Both are legends and I aim to learn from Waqar bhai who used to have controlled reverse swing that I also aim to perfect."
Pace means a lot to Haris who states he always tries to click 140s and through his experience of playing domestic cricket in Pakistan, he believes that if any bowler can touch that mark then he won't be neglected. Moreover, the Lahore Qalandars stalwart considers maintaining fitness and putting in the hard yards as imperative requirements to keep the speed up.
"When you know you are bowling 140 plus then I don't think anybody can be neglected and he can surely play top-level cricket. When I played PSL, my target was to regularly bowl in the 140s.
"I try to maintain my pace and focus on my training and fitness. I have touched 150kph in Big Bash but [clocking] 150 is not always in my mind and I concentrate more on making sure I bowl above 140 clicks."
Haris views T20 leagues as a valuable training platform to play in pressure situations among international stars which helps players alleviate to the national level and he credits T20 leagues for helping domestic players gain invaluable international exposure.
"There are only two overseas players allowed to play in a team in the Big Bash League and so maximum [number of] domestic players get chances which is good for them because they get chances at international level and they learn to play in pressure situations and similarly in Pakistan, Lahore Qalandars or any other franchise [for that matter], domestic players get international exposure in PSL and their confidence increases as a result," Haris added.
Haris shared the new ball with Shaheen Afridi when he first burst onto the scene for Lahore Qalandars and will be reunited with his bowling partner for Pakistan in the Bangladesh T20I series. He hopes to replicate similar performances for the national team.
"Shaheen is more experienced. Shaheen [Afridi] and I have played together in the PSL and we had a great combination we will rejoin [as part of the pace attack] again and will hopefully play well together."
"I will tip Pakistan as favourites [for the T20I series] because it's obvious we are playing at home and we support our team. I haven't set a particular target. I will set my targets when I step into the ground and after assessing the situation."
Pugnacious Haris has mellowed after hearing the pleasant news of being picked to play for Pakistan and he dismisses any notion of being gutted after failing to gain selectors' attention in preceding series.
"I wasn't disappointed when I didn't get picked in the previous series. Maybe I wasn't fit enough or I wasn't able to assess myself if I was suitable to play ODI but I focused on representing [Pakistan] in the T20 World Cup. If you are performing consistently, then there is no point getting upset over not getting chances and all you need to focus is on the fact that when you get an opportunity you must make the most of it."