THE more Haris Rauf is propelled towards stardom, the more the curiosity to deconstruct the base which he says got him where he is today: tape ball cricket.
For many a years, this unorthodox and unstreamed channel has acted as a parallel talent feeder of sorts, a theatre to many an amazing bowling stories.
One look at Haris Rauf’s action and you know that he is a product of tape ball cricket. Like a fighter jet is catapulted on an Aircraft Carrier, he too blasts into action from a small run-up. The short sharp run-up is typical of tape ball bowlers who are forced to limit their gallop because of space constraints. His run-up though is enough for him to let go a thunderbolt at 150 clicks with an incredible fast arm rotation.
Arm speed is a classic take away point from tape ball bowling as it is the key to generate pace through air with a light tennis ball. Some even develop a low arm action, like Lasith Malinga, who like Haris played a lot of tape ball cricket in his formative years, to get it to move or dip in late. Haris’s front leg is nicely braced at the point of delivery, giving him a strong base and then he completes his action by bursting through the crease. So much to enjoy, so much to ponder!
What started off as bit of a fun time in the 80’s between friends living in the area, surrounded by a world of concrete which had eaten into their playing greens, tape ball cricket on streets became a forced option and in a matter of a few years a rage.
The streets during the weekend started to glow with light towers. The games would start late in the night, once the traffic became light, and hysteria continued till break of dawn. As The crowds vantaged on the walls and rooftops of the houses in numbers, the games also became competitive. With Mohalla egos and prize money at stake, the players now treated it as a serious business. The circuit started to throw up tape ball professionals who would get offers to play domestic matches and tournaments in Dubai.
The razzmatazz of Packer circa was being relived in Nazimabad albeit with tape ball and continue to astound the senses even in 2020 in the shape of Haris Rauf.
Team Pakistan’s T20 DNA has a lot of tape ball cricket in it. An Eclectic mix of bowlers of various styles who have a feel for the game mirrors some of the tape ball qualities and smartness. Yes it may be true that the unrefined slogging is a negative byproduct of the beast but at times you have to take the rough with the smooth!
There may be an amateurish feel to it but tape ball cricket has been a rich source of skills for fast bowlers who have benefited by its winning formula of a short run-up, a fast arm action, and energy through the crease. May be an out of box thinking could add value to young teen bowlers at the National Cricket Academy if tennis ball bowling chapter is included in their curriculum. With PSL round the corner, it will be exciting to see if we are able to pick more bowling stars who have qualified through tape ball cricket. Can’t wait.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020