Beaming Biff wary of Tahir hype

2011-01-12 00:00

SELDOM has a new cap been fussed over quite so much, but Imran Tahir’s arrival in international cricket has even found a way to make Graeme Smith’s dreams come true.

Yesterday, the Proteas skipper admitted he had imagined such a day when he had an attacking spinner at his disposal, and the Pakistani-born Tahir has made that image a reality.

“It is something I have dreamed of during my captaincy,” Smith said ahead of today’s opening one-day international against India at Kingsmead.

The excitement generated by Tahir is unsurprising, especially when one considers what he brings to the table.

Smith, to his credit, has warned that it is important not to expect too much of the Dolphins’ super-twirler, who has already had a stunning season.

“It is important how we manage him, but it is obviously a huge asset to have a wicket-taking bowler in the middle overs.”

Certainly Smith recognises the danger of hyping Tahir up too much, even though his numbers do much of the hyping themselves.

There was a sense of nervous excitement in the national captain’s demeanour — he knows that he may have a real gem on his hands.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure and expectation on him, I just want to let him find his feet and grow,” Smith emphasised.

“He has proven to be very successful in county cricket and domestic cricket [in South Africa] and I would just like him to find his feet at international level,” said Smith.

The irony is that, after all the hype, Tahir may not even make his international bow today on his home ground.

Rain over Durban this week means the Proteas may be tempted to play an extra seamer, and it is unlikely that vice-captain and spin incumbent Johan Botha will be pushed aside.

The plan for the Proteas seems to be around playing Tahir in the World Cup, in favourable sub-continent conditions.

South Africa’s cricket team have never really had the option to be brave with a spinner, and it may yet take a while before Smith allows himself to be gung-ho with Tahir’s assortment of leggies, googlies and that deadly top-spinner.

Of course, there is also the small matter of today’s series opener against India.

Re-inforcements in the form of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra should make the Indians just as competitive, and the Proteas would do well to focus on matters on the field too.

Sunday’s T20 international showed that India pack quite a punch with the bat, and their clutch of part-time spinners will also play a role in the middle overs.

It is crucial for the Proteas to get off to a good start.

There is no Jacques Kallis, and Faf du Plessis looks very likely to make his debut today.

The Titans dynamo was head and shoulders above anyone else during the MTN40, and he will be looking to take that form to the highest level.

The Proteas will also be looking to show that they do know how to win in Durban.

Kingsmead is fast becoming a bogey venue for the Proteas, and they will be eager to get back to winning ways in this part of the world.

Smith also revealed that the Proteas are looking at grooming Wayne Parnell into an all-rounder in this format, and the left-armer will be keen to show more control with the ball, as well as a good head with the bat in the latter stages.

Much of this series will be used to develop strategies for the rapidly approaching World Cup.

India, with just three ODI wins in 19 matches on SA soil, will be looking to fare much better this time around.

But the Proteas would also really like to go to bed tonight with a Durban win. It’s been a while.

TEAMS:

South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Johan Botha, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.

India (possible): Sachin Tendulkar, M Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin / Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra.

TV times: From 2pm on SABC 3 and Supersport 2.

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