The stage is set for a dazzling night cricket tournament in the locality of North Karachi. There are some local spectators as well to witness the breathtaking tapeball cricket action. All teams are geared up for the tournament, including the team which has previously won big tournaments by the name of Young Blood even though they are missing their strike bowler. Despite of being short of their key player, they are a happy and a proud bunch of players as their teammate is serving bigger commitments. The missing star player is training hard to shine at the grandest of stages, ICC Champions Trophy, the missing player is Rumman Raees.
Rumman, who is known as one of the finds of Pakistan Super League season one, made his ODI debut against a strong England team during the ICC Champions Trophy. But, he did not make it feel as if he was playing a 50-over game for the first time in Greens that too in a semi-final of an ICC tournament. Taking the new ball in absence of Mohammad Amir, he was accurate, he was confident and he was intelligent. He made Cardiff look like a local ground of Sector 11-I of North Karachi, where he has grown up playing cricket, he made English batsmen look like local players whom he has ruled throughout his life with his variations.
During Pakistan’s crunch game against the Englishmen, Rumman dismissed Alex Hales early in the inning and then celebrated his maiden wicket in his signature style. He just stood straight with hands at his back and a slight smile on his face, a manner of celebration which was unknown to the world. It was a proud moment for Naveed, his childhood friend who has seen Rumman evolved as a cricketer. According to Naveed he used to celebrate ordinarily during his street cricket days, but he wanted to do something different at the highest level. “Rumman told me that he wants to do something different after taking a wicket, he wanted to do something for which he can be remembered for.”
Rumman’s celebration was earlier criticized by fans terming it as rude. However, He is a humble, down to earth person with always a smile on his face. One of Islamabad United’s co-managers Rehan Ul Haq told, “Contrary to popular belief because of his trademark celebration, Rumman is a very down to earth person.”
The left-arm pacer has always been like this, during his street cricket days, he was never into sledging despite of being one of the best out there. Even after becoming a star, he is humble to his old fellows and neighbours. “Mani (Rumman Raees) has always been class apart, if we used to lose a match in his absence, we used to challenge that team that we will return with our striker and will beat you,” recalled Naveed. “He never sledged in local games, he never got into fights, and he has always been a very down to earth person, very respectful. Even till now, he meets us in the gentlest of ways, which is his biggest quality,” he added.
Rumman Raees knows that he is different from typical Pakistani pacers, who have ruthless aggression, “I believe in bowling with a cool head, I am not that aggressive while bowling, I want to bowl with patience and bowl according to the field. You don’t want to lose your mind after conceding a boundary from a batsman. I don’t have aggression of a typical Pakistani fast bowler such as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhter or Mohammad Amir. However, I am trying to develop it, as it is necessary for a pacer,” he told.
As he does not have the speed to be a tear away fast bowler, he heavily depends on his variations, which he developed during his tapeball cricket days, “I developed my slower one when I used to play tapeball cricket in streets, and I worked on it with the hard ball and perfected it. I learned where to pitch, moreover when to bowl it and when not to. Slower ones are weapon in the limited over cricket. I can bowl different slower ones with seam up, back of the hand, cutter and others.”
He joined UBL Academy back in 2009 after his friends and neighbours convinced his family that he is a special talent. He performed well in a local tournament and immediately caught the attention of Mansoor Akhter who took him under his wing and roped him in for his department, UBL. Strangely, he was playing for a department before making his club cricket debut, which he later made Pakistan Cricket Club (PCC), which has been the most prolific nursery for budding cricketers of Karachi. Azam Khan, the man who has groomed cricketers like Sarfraz Ahmed, Asad Shafiq, Anwar Ali and many others, was working with Raees also.
The beginning of his journey was smooth, he had very few hurdles in his way. He got selected for Karachi U-19 and within just three years of competitive cricket, Rumman made his first class debut in 2010 against ZTBL. Despite of putting up an ordinary show at that level, Karachi Dolphins’ coach Sajid Khan and the skipper, Mohammad Sami identified his potential and picked him for a domestic ODI tournament in the same year.
The man, whose bowling is tailor-made for T20 cricket, made his domestic debut of the shortest format of the game under Shahid Afridi’s captaincy for Karachi Dolphins in a crowded National Stadium Karachi. The veteran allrounder tipped him on how not to take crowd on nerves that later came in handy for him during PSL 1.
“There were 26,000 people present in the stands on that day, Shahid Bhai told me that these people are here to see you, do not take this crowd on your nerves, just give your best,” mentioned the 25-year old. “I still remember those words of Shahid Bhai and it helped me perform well during the PSL as well in presence of huge crowds.”
Ahead of the first edition of Pakistan Super League, Rumman was confident to be picked by a franchise as he had a series of good performances under his belt and he had a pretty good reputation off the field as well. But, being the first pick from the emerging category surprised him.
“I was not expecting to be the first pick in the draft of PSL in emerging players’ category. I was shocked to hear my name when Islamabad United selected me straightaway, I didn’t know I worth so much that I will be the first pick. It was a huge moment for me and I cannot explain how I felt then,” he recalled. Rumman impressed everyone with his performance in the inaugural edition of PSL and it was confidence boosting for him, “PSL gave me confidence that I can perform anywhere, it cleared the doubt in my mind. As a youngster, I had a doubt that whether I will be able to perform against foreign players, but, I learned after PSL that cricket basics are same and you have to stick to them.”
Rumman made his international debut in the third T20 international of West Indies tour to UAE in September 2016. He bowled well with just 10 runs in his three overs against big hitters from the Caribbean. However, few people know that he was supposed to make his international debut before the commencement of PSL 2016 during Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand. The same tour where Mohammad Amir returned to international cricket. Unfortunately, he caught a chest infection and had to be dropped.
His tough luck continued. Later, Rumman was named in Pakistan’s squad for Asia Cup T20 and World T20 2016, which was announced during the first edition of PSL. His selection created a festival like situation in his locality. “We distributed sweets, put his posters in the streets, everyone was extremely happy and proud,” shared Naveed. But, he suffered another injury that resulted in his exclusion and his Islamabad United’s teammate Mohammad Sami’s inclusion. It was a heartbreaking moment for both the man himself and for his friends and neighbours.
These disappointments did not bog down Rumman. He believed in himself. He is a competitive character and knows that that one can always bounce back after a bad day. “He is a confident person, who realizes that even if you have a bad day, you can always bounce back. He is extremely competitive on the field, he loves challenges and never backs out from taking responsibility. He targeted big scalps like Kevin Petersen, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum in the PSL and he removed them with great success,” told Rehan.
Rumman Raees has always been optimistic about what is coming his way. He revealed his secret of success as being positive in tough times. He has an interesting philosophy to share, “Having negative people around you is as necessary as having positive people. I get the encouragement from there discouraging comments to prove them wrong. I always take positive out of negative.”
Rumman Raees was interviewed after the conclusion of PSL 2016.