South Africa

Tahir debut poses questions

2011-01-25 22:40

Christo Buchner

Johannesburg – Imran Tahir is like Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – you hear a lot about him, but never see anything.

After much hype about the new spinner in the South African cricket team when he was picked for the one-day series against India – captain Graeme Smith even described him as a player he has always dreamed of having at his disposal – nothing came of it. He did not even play in one of the five one-day internationals.

Now the 31-year-old former Pakistani will be thrown in at the deep end of the biggest stage possible – the World Cup, which starts on 19 February in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

“I’m really surprised that he never played against India,” said Graham Ford, his coach at the Dolphins and a former coach of the South African team.

“Maybe I did not understand it correctly, but I was under the impression that he would play at Newlands. The pitch there was ideal for him.”

Titans captain Jacques Rudolph also finds it strange that Tahir was “hidden” from the rest of the cricket world and did not play against India.

Tahir still played for the Titans until last season.

“Yes, it’s a little worrying that he never made his debut. He is a world class player, but it’s a step or two up to international cricket from what he is used to now. It may well be a risk to let him make his debut at the World Cup,” said Rudolph.

“I just hope it does not happen that we say after the tournament that we should rather have picked more experienced players,” the Titans batsman said of the numerous rookies on whose shoulders the responsibility for the World Cup will rest.

“I really believe that something South Africa should pay attention to is not to expose players too soon at international level. Players should first be given the chance of settling in their own game. Look at someone like Morné van Wyk. He is now picking the fruits of establishing himself and being comfortable with his own game.

“Even if he has not played much for South Africa, he is an experienced player who knows exactly where he stands with his batting.

“In that sense we can learn a lot from the Aussies, because they don’t just pick someone until they are sure that he will make it at the highest level. That is why I believe they are tournament favourites with India because they have more than enough experience.

“Just look at how they have brought back Brett Lee and David Hussey. Their experience will be worth a lot.”

Ford said that Tahir would have to play in some of the warm-up games in India before the World Cup.

“He has to get to know his team-mates on the field and build a relationship with them. That is why he cannot be done the disservice of making his tournament debut in an important game.”

Ford also believes it will be easier to fit Tahir in when Jacques Kallis is fit again, and the balance of the team is better.


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