Cape Town - At
times like this for the Proteas, an almost 41-year-old player being touted as a
solution to a crisis might struggle to find favour with everyone.
Imran Tahir is no ordinary human ... and his unique set of wiles could enormously
help the national team’s quest to put greater pressure on opposition top-order
batting line-ups in Twenty20 international cricket.
evergreen, infectiously animated “mystery” spinner is on a sabbatical of sorts
from the Proteas - a period in which, by mutual agreement, they have been able
to give exposure to other slow bowlers in white-ball cricket with longer-term
planning in mind.
He made it
clear when he stepped down from yeoman (107 caps) one-day international service
after the 2019 World Cup in England that he wished to still help the SA cause,
if possible, for one last time at the T20 World Cup in Australia later this
wouldn’t you want him?
genuinely be branded a strike bowler, given his indisputable ability to outfox the
most lethal of global stroke-players in white-ball cricket while simultaneously
keeping a suitably tight lid on the run rate.
That is an
area where the Proteas have been struggling to a special extent of late: particularly
in the first six-over powerplay where they haemorrhaged runs in both
surrendered, home T20 series against England and more recently Australia.
unfailingly, South Africa let the opposition get off to a flier over the course
of the six contests, whether their foes were batting first or second.
notched 68/1 (East London), 55/1 (Durban) and 62/1 (Centurion), and the Aussies
70/1 (Johannesburg), 54/1 (Port Elizabeth) and a blistering, demoralising 75/0
Tahir’s effectiveness is generally best employed just after the powerplay and
with the field wider spread, he is not averse to being introduced during it -
including sometimes as one of the opening bowlers, an event that occurred as
recently as his second-last outing for the Proteas.
against limited Zimbabwe in East London (October 2018), he shared that role
with Lungi Ngidi on a day when he grabbed outstanding figures of 5/23 in a full,
three strikes all came in the powerplay, quickly leaving the neighbours’
innings in relative ruin.
Africa’s pace bowlers largely the recipients of the unedifying early “tap” in
recent matches – though ironically their later-innings bowling has been looking
considerably better in the period – Tahir is exactly the kind of spin
specialist who could constructively be sneaked in for an over or two right up
front, possibly with success in the wickets column which is rightly considered
one of the best counters still to a rampant scoring rate.
active on the global franchise tournament circuit, Tahir has been used
extremely sparingly in T20 internationals in recent times: just one appearance
each for the Proteas in the calendar years of 2018 and 2019, and nothing yet
But on the
assumption that he is officially still deemed “available” - there have been no
indicators to the contrary - he must stand an excellent chance of earning a
passage to the Australian-hosted tournament in October.
In Tahir’s absence
from the T20 international arena (where he boasts 63 wickets from 38 games at
15.04 and a brilliant economy rate of 6.73 into the bargain), Tabraiz Shamsi
has been developing in leaps and bounds.
One of few Proteas
bowlers to keep the Aussies in acceptable check during the last few days, the
left-arm “chinaman” specialist is no less deserving, as things stand, of a
ticket to the T20 World Cup: there’s every chance both will go.
there might well be a justified clamour to field both in the same SA line-up at
times; the Aussies fielded two spinners (Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa) throughout
the triumphant series here and they were hugely influential figures in the
however, one not inconsiderable snag to consider in that scenario: the Proteas’
tail-end batting order is already way too fluffy and both Tahir and Shamsi very
much count as non-batsmen.
feature in the same team, there might be very little space left for specialist
fast bowlers as a result; there would be a stronger need for at least one
all-rounder, and more probably two.
that is a bridge to cross on another day?
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing