CAPE TOWN - A heartbroken Imran Tahir revealed that Proteas coach Mark Boucher "has not contacted me once since becoming national coach", while also having to "chase after" convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang as the mist starts clearing on the omission of South Africa's "free agents" for the T20 World Cup.
Tahir remains as passionate as ever to represent the Proteas, claiming that even at 42 years old "I am still working hard and sacrificing a lot to play for my country".
The veteran leg-spinner was, however, omitted along with former captain Faf du Plessis and all-rounder Chris Morris, from the 15-man Proteas squad for the T20 global jamboree set to be held in the United Arab Emirates and Oman next month.
Tahir is bitterly disappointed, not only because of his omission, but more so about the way he and particularly Du Plessis have been managed over the past 18 months. Tahir has not been called up to a Proteas squad since retiring from the 50-overs format at the 2019 World Cup.
"I want to tell the people of South Africa my story because I played with my heart. Whether people accept me as a South African or not, I am South African. My wife is South African and my family is South African,“ Tahir said.
“My child is born in South Africa, so it's home to me. I have always wanted to win a World Cup for South Africa to say thank you for the opportunity this country has given me, so I am not planning on retiring. I am going to play until 50 if I have to," Tahir told IOL Sport from Guyana.
The lack of communication with Tahir, in particular, is in complete contrast to the way Boucher managed AB de Villiers' potential return to the Proteas. Boucher and De Villiers had numerous talks about the former captain making a u-turn on his international retirement.
When De Villiers eventually told Cricket SA that "once for all, that his retirement was final", Boucher openly stated "As a coach, I needed to try and get our best players, for the team and the environment."
Tahir is South Africa's second highest T20I wicket-taker with 61 scalps at an average of 14.08 and economy rate of 6.56 and was along with De Villiers named as the only Proteas in the ICC ODI Team of the Decade.
The 42-year-old further claims that Cricket SA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith had "promised" him that he would be included in the squad for T20 World Cup that was originally meant to be played in Australia last year during their initial talks during the first lockdown before a complete breakdown of communication occurred.
"I am not feeling great that I am not in the squad. Last year Graeme Smith spoke to me and said I want you to play in the World Cup, which was in Australia. I said obviously I am available and excited and honoured because you give me respect. I am ready,“ Tahir said.
“I am working hard and can you see my performances in all these leagues. He said that’s why he wants me. He also said he was going to speak to a few other guys like AB (de Villiers) and Faf (du Plessis). They put me on the Proteas group and everything, but then nobody contacted me," said Tahir.
"After a few months I texted Smith and Boucher and nobody replied to me. Since Boucher has become coach he has not contacted me once to tell me what his plans are. It's really sad man. I served the country for a 10 years, I think I deserve a little more respect than these guys thinking I'm worthless."
IOL Sport conducted an exclusive interview with Tahir in January 2021, where he reiterated his availability for the Proteas for bilateral T20I series and the T20 World Cup that was now due to take place in India before being shifted to the UAE due to Covid-19.
In the same interview, the newly-appointed Mpitsang admitted that Tahir had tried to contact him, but that he had not replied as yet as he firstly needed "to understand how the free agents would fit into our system".
Incredible! Imran Tahir takes the first ever hat-trick in the #TheHundred 🎩![CDATA]>🇿![CDATA]>🇦— Superbru (@Superbru) August 9, 2021
His figures tonight for Birmingham Phoenix:
Tahir, who is currently playing in the Caribbean Premier League, then attempted to contact national limited-overs captain Temba Bavuma in the hope of opening up some form of communication with the powers-that-be.
"I spoke to Temba and he said he has a meeting with Boucher the following week. Temba came back to me with a message from Boucher that I must speak to Victor,“ Tahir said.
“I again tried to reach him (Mpitsang) and he tried to call me on my WhatsApp number, but he didn't realise WhatsApp doesn't work in Dubai. Victor eventually spoke to me and said he will let me know. But then after a couple of months again I heard nothing," Tahir said.
The Pakistani-born tweaker remains a prominent performer in all the major T20 leagues around the world, highlighted by his sensational hat-trick whilst playing for the Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred competition in England last month.
The Proteas have, though, instead placed their spinning faith in World No1 T20 bowler Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj and Bjorn Fortuin, with Smith saying “we felt Imran had a great run, he is still being successful but we are confident in the current crop of spinners we are developing and we felt we should give them the opportunity."