JOHANNESBURG – Imran Tahir will retire from the One-Day International cricket after this year’s World Cup, but will still be available for the Proteas in the T20 format.
Tahir made the announcement following Sunday’s first One-Day International against Sri Lanka, ending days of speculation following his absence from the list of players who will receive national contract from Cricket South Africa for the 2019/20 season.
The soon-to-be 40-year-old Tahir has played 95 ODIs, and if all goes to plan, will play his 100th at the World Cup in England later this year.
“We had a mutual understanding – Cricket SA and myself – that going forward, I will finish at the World Cup,” Tahir said on Sunday.
IOL Sport understands that a similar arrangement has been made with JP Duminy, who was also not amongst the contracted list of Proteas players named last week.
Both will be allowed to pursue options in T20 leagues around the world, but will also be required to avail themselves for Proteas selection in the T20 format, with an eye on playing in the World T20, which will be played in Australia in October next year.
“I believe I have a role to play for SA in T20s,” Tahir added.
Tahir’s retirement from ODIs at the World Cup brings his career in that format full circle, for it was at the 2011 tournament that he made his debut, in South Africa’s opening match against the West Indies in Delhi.
Tahir was part of a three-pronged spin attack - alongside Robin Peterson and Johan Botha – which caught the Windies off-guard, with Tahir picking up 4/41 in that match.
South Africa had deliberately ‘hidden’ him from view before that tournament, not playing him in the pre-World Cup series against Pakistan and India.
He made a major impact at that World Cup, picking up 14 wickets at an average of 10.71, with an economy rate of 3.79.
He went to become a vital component of the Proteas’ ODI plans, with his wicket-taking ability through the middle overs providing an attacking threat.
That remains the case, as Faf du Plessis reiterated on Sunday, when Tahir’s performance – which saw him finish with figures of 3/26 – proved decisive in turning the opening ODI of the five-match series against Sri Lanka in the Proteas’ favour.
“That was the Immy of old, the Immy that has won us games single-handedly in the past. He’s my go-to man in the middle. We need him to be on top of his game at the World Cup, so it was really good to see that (performance),” said Du Plessis.
Tahir acknowledged that he hasn’t always been at his best this season, although he never felt out of form.
“I did bowl a couple of bad balls in the previous series, but it’s not like I bowled five overs of bad balls. It can happen to any player.
“I’m very a positive guy, so when I do (bowl a bad ball), I just try and put it out of my mind,” said Tahir.
The leg-spinner, who’s also played in 20 Tests and 37 T20 internationals for his adopted nation, said among other reasons for his retirement from ODIs was the strain it placed on his body, and so that other spinners could get a chance.
“If I’m playing T20 cricket, I feel I can give a lot.
“If you look at 50 over cricket there’s guys like (Tabraiz) Shamsi, (Aaron) Phangiso, Shaun von Berg, Dane Piedt... there are a lot of guys who need opportunity.
“I don’t want to lose my spot. I have to work twice as hard, they are younger than me. I just want to be honest, I don’t want to leave, but that’s how it is,” said Tahir.