Thursday, January 6, 2011

Imran Tahir - The Journeyman Cricketer

Imran Tahir, a Pakistan-born leg-spinner, who would think that at age 31 would be playing rather for South Africa then his home country? His emergence as a quality leg-spinner can be seen in his statistics  ; 535 First-Class wickets at an imposing average of 25 and participating in 96 Limited Over Matches has brought him 140 wickets at an average of just 22.

Tahir is also something of a journeyman of a cricketer plying his trade from the dusty pitches in his ex-home Pakistan to England and finally now to South Africa. He made his First-Class debut back in 1996/97 but never shone out and was nothing more than any other average 'leggie. However, he was signed by Middlesex in 2003 and played a bit of County Cricket there. He returned back to Pakistan where he played for the Water & Power Development Authority until he was signed in 2007 by Yorkshire and the Titans from South Africa who had observed his meteoric rise was whilst playing county cricket and a few successful seasons on the Pakistani circuit.

Tahir was released by the Titans in 2009 as he never got much gametime, rather being preferred to rookie leg-spinner Shaun von Berg. He returned back to County Cricket in England and played for Hampshire and Warwickshire albeit for being picked in the South Africa Test Squad to v England in early 2010 but was not eligible at that time even though he was married to a South African woman.
In mid 2010, the Kwazulu-Natal based Dolphins franchise contracted him up and immediately was successful for them claiming bags of wickets to make him comfortably ahead of other bowlers in the Supersport 4-day First-Class series.

His dream came true in late 2010 when it was announced that he was eligible to play for South Africa. The convener of selectors, Andrew Hudson, was said to be "considering him" for the ODI series v India. As I write the news has just come in that Tahir has been picked for the ODI series against India.

The news came out in delight for South African fans who were monitoring his progress of recent times but bad news for fellow and up-and-coming South African spinners. So let's wait and see if Tahir is all that people talk about.

-Jonathan Amler for DieHardCricketFans