Proteas: Tahir in for long haul

2016-06-22 19:01
Imran Tahir (Getty)

Cape Town – It may be a little unnerving to supporters of South Africa that Imran Tahir, currently the country’s leading bowling factor in one-day internationals, is 37 … making him comfortably the oldest member of the Proteas squad.

So it will put many of their minds to rest that the multi-trick leg-spinner has no plans at all to sidle into the sunset soon.

That became apparent during a particularly candid interview the effervescent Tahir did this week in the Caribbean with commentator Mike Haysman for SuperSport’s Inside Edge show.

In the sit-down chat, Tahir revealed some of the secrets of his trade, including his use of googlies, flippers and sliders and even listing the tallies of variations within each category.

He also spoke passionately of the influence of legends like Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir and the late Richie Benaud in shaping a career which, statistically, only seems to get better in both forms of limited-overs cricket for the Proteas – he is ranked third in the world for ODI bowlers and second in Twenty20 internationals.

But when Haysman asked him the pretty key question of when he thought he might retire, Pakistan-born Tahir, who only made his top-flight debut for SA in 2011, just before his 32nd birthday, replied that he was enjoying his cricket too much.

“I will know when it is time to (stop),” he said. “I don’t (have that feeling) at all right now. You never know, I might still be bowling at 45!”

At the very least, it seems Tahir should stay firmly in the Proteas reckoning for another 50-overs World Cup; the next one is scheduled for England and Wales in 2019.

Bowlers, and especially spinners who take much less wear and tear to their bodies than the faster men do, are not completely averse historically to remaining at the highest level  well into their 40s.

The ODI record-holder in age terms is Nolan Clarke, the Barbadian-born all-rounder who played his last match for the Netherlands – against South Africa – at Rawalpindi in the 1996 World Cup: he was 47 and 257 days at the time.

Next up comes John Traicos, the Zimbabwe off-spinner who was 45 and 312 days when he ended his career against India at Pune in 1993.

The top South African landmark is held by the late Clive Rice, who was 42 and 114 days old when he led the country in the last of three famous, isolation-ending ODIs in India in 1991 (Delhi), whilst Omar Henry was 40 when he represented SA against West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1992.

Tahir keeps himself in good physical condition and, although he has never been a whippet in the field, ought not to slow down too markedly over the next couple of years – besides, his record of late only emphasises how any disadvantages to the cause through his selection are far outweighed by the positives.

He is the leading wicket-taker by a distance with 13 from four completed matches in the ongoing tri-series against West Indies and Australia, and in the last full match by the Proteas bagged a career-best 7/45 against the host team in St Kitts.

Tahir, a consistently lethal striker in the middle overs of the opposition innings, will be a crucial element once more at Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval on Friday as AB de Villiers’s side attempt to knock over the Windies again to clinch the vacant spot in the final against the Aussies.

He boasts 105 scalps from 59 ODIs in total, at an average of 22.75, economy of 4.66 and strike rate of 29.2.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  imran tahir  |  cricket

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