New Delhi - When Ramadan starts, Imran
Tahir will begin juggling the demands of observing his Muslim faith and playing
a full day of international cricket for a team sponsored by a beer company.
"I don't think it is difficult to
balance professional sports with practising your faith," insisted the
South Africa leg spinner, in an interview said.
"It is very easy if you follow the
One of the world's top spinners,
Pakistan-born Tahir has played more than 100 times for the Proteas since making
his international debut in 2011, after becoming a South African citizen through
In his native Pakistan, the team regularly
prays together on the field during internationals and the lunch break is
extended on Fridays, so players and fans can attend the weekly services at the
And in Bangladesh, the only other
Muslim-majority Test-playing nation, facilities have been set aside to enable
fans to pray at the ground.
Tahir is one of five Muslims to have been
selected for the South African squad taking part in the tri-nation ODI series
with the West Indies and Australia in the Caribbean that begins on Friday and
runs until June 26.
They include former skipper Hashim Amla,
who along with Tahir has been given special dispensation not to sport the logo
of Castle lager, the team's major sponsor, as Muslims are forbidden from
Muslims are normally expected to fast from
dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan, which begins in different parts of
the world this coming Sunday or Monday.
But they are allowed to refrain from
fasting if they are away from home, as in the case of Tahir while he is in the
Tahir said that even if he did not observe
a fast on a particular match day, he would still make it up at a later stage.
"I am thankful to Allah that he drove
me closer to him," Tahir said, during the just-finished Indian Premier
"I try not to miss my prayers and the
30 fasts in Ramadan but even if I do miss them due to my cricket, I make up for
them later on."
The Lahore-born Tahir has plied his trade
around the world, including stints in England's county championship and the
IPL, where he played for the Delhi Daredevils.
Speaking in the Indian capital,
Tahir said that many in the cricketing fraternity helped him observe his faith.
"I have come through all the different
cultures of the world while playing cricket and I have had no difficulty
whatsoever while following my path," he said, glancing at the clock to
ensure he wouldn't be late for Friday prayers.
"Rather they (players, coaches and
support staff) give more respect. Some have even offered me their room to offer
my Namaz (prayers)."
Since making his international debut at the
late age of 32, Tahir has become a mainstay of a South African team that had
long lacked a top-class spinner.
He has particularly excelled in the shorter
formats and is now the world's number two bowler in Twenty20 internationals
behind the West Indian spinner Samuel Badree, and number six in the ODI chart.
His animated celebrations and appeals have
made him something of a pantomime villain among some fans, but Tahir says it
shows his passion.
"I think people know that the
celebration is instinctive and not fake," he said.
"Looking back at the hard patches of
my life, I feel good that I have come thus far. If I get a wicket I just want
to show people that how big that is for me."