CAPE TOWN – He is 39 years old and has played in 86 ODIs for the Proteas, but Imran Tahir is not about to give up on his World Cup dream.
Having first shot to prominence at the 2011 edition in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, taking 14 wickets in five matches as the South Africans lost to New Zealand in the quarter-final in Dhaka.
The 2015 nightmare semi-final defeat, again to the Black Caps, followed at Eden Park in Auckland, so next year’s tournament in England and Wales is Tahir’s last chance to become a world champion.
At his age, he admits it is a “challenge” to be physically able to keep going until the middle of next year, when the World Cup takes place from May 30 to July 14.
The Proteas kick off their campaign against England at The Oval in London on the opening day.
“It’s an absolute honour representing your country, especially in the World Cup. It is going to be a challenge, but I’m the kind of guy who loves challenges,” Tahir told the media in Bloemfontein ahead of Wednesday’s second ODI against Zimbabwe (1pm start).
“I have been working really hard on my fitness, because we have so many fit guys in the team. So, if you want to keep the standard up, a guy like me needs to be really up from a fitness point of view and try to make an impact.
“I am loving the game at the moment, but I must say if we win the World Cup, I will probably call it. It’s too early to say, but at the moment, I am enjoying every opportunity that I get to play for South Africa.
“I am trying to go as long as I can. I want to make sure I enjoy my game and I give what the team requires from me.
“I also don’t want to drag myself into the team too long. I am the kind of guy who wants to leave with respect.”
Having been given a break for the Sri Lankan away series, Tahir was back amongst the wickets in the first Zimbabwe game on Sunday, wrapping up the tail to claim 2/23.
There is no doubt that he is still the No 1 limited-overs spinner in the Proteas set-up, but he is happy to assist Tabraiz Shamsi, who got an opportunity against Sri Lanka.
“Shamo has done well and deserves to be where he is at right now. I am looking forward to share my knowledge with him and with all the spinners that I’m gonna play with, even at the Dolphins,” Tahir said.
“It is an exciting time that we have another mystery bowler, which is Shamsi, and I look forward to playing with him if we do play two spinners.
“We do talk a lot about the game, and we make plans in advance of any series or game, which is great.”