Much ado about wicket-plundering Imran Tahir

2011-01-15 17:44

Seldom in the recent past has the inclusion of a player in the Proteas squad elicited as much reaction as leg-spinner Imran Tahir’s selection has.

The 31-year-old Pakistani-born player, who was granted South African citizenship only on New Year’s eve, has found himself the subject of vast amounts of media hype since the national selectors included him in South Africa’s one-day squad for the current series against India.

The affable Tahir has certainly enjoyed a remarkable South African domestic season with the Dolphins, which would indicate that all the hype is not without justification.

In five four-day SuperSport Series matches he claimed an incredible 42 wickets – which puts him 13 wickets ahead of his nearest rival, Titans fast bowler Ethy Mbhalati – before this week’s round of matches started.

Tahir also impressed during the limited-overs MTN40 series, finishing fourth on the leading wicket-takers’ charts, with 15 wickets.

Making the jump from domestic cricket to international cricket is not easy, but Tahir seems to have the attributes to succeed at the highest level.

He spins the ball both ways and has the added weapons of sliders and top-spinners to befuddle batsmen who are looking for the ball to turn. Throw in the amount of drift he finds and it is no wonder that batsmen around South Africa have struggled against him.

One person who believes in Tahir is his franchise coach and former Proteas coach, Graham Ford.

“Imran has what it takes to succeed at international level. In the right conditions he is a massive handful. He is passionate about playing for South Africa and if he gets a chance he will be effective,” said Ford.

Tahir would seem more suited to the rigours of Test matches, but he is an effective weapon in limited-overs cricket because of his ability to take wickets, especially during the middle part of a game, when most teams are happy to pick up singles and not take too many risks.

“South Africa used to be very conservative in one-day cricket, but it is important to have a wicket-taking option in the middle overs,” Ford explained.

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith echoed the sentiment.

“To have someone like Imran, who can pick up wickets in the middle overs and change games, together with our seam attack, is a wonderful asset,” he said. – MWP Media

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