MANCHESTER – Imran Tahir is not one to hide emotions. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and has given his adopted country royal service over the last decade.
It was no wonder Tahir was close to tears yesterday afternoon. Stuck away inside the smallest of team rooms, sitting behind a massage table with dustbins either side, there was Tahir giving his final media briefing as a Proteas ODI player.
That is, of course, if he doesn’t win the Man of the Match award against Australia in South Africa’s last World Cup round-robin fixture here at Old Trafford tomorrow. Considering the 40-year-old’s form, that could easily still happen.
So, why then decide to walk away, and give up something that still clearly means so much to Tahir?
“I want to give opportunities to youngsters. I could easily have played another year for South Africa. From my fitness point of view I think I am fine.
“From a performance point of view I am doing well. But for me, it is time for them to step up and take on the responsibility,” the veteran said.
“It is hard though. I am actually trying to busy myself with family to not think about it. I never used to think I would be finish with cricket because I always wanted to play. But I really hope that I leave on a good note for upcoming youngsters.”
If ever South African cricketers approaching retirement were looking for a copybook to follow in future, or even now, Tahir has the manuscript. He is bowing out with dignity and grace - and crucially at the height of his powers.
Maybe it’s a little bit easier because Tahir is not walking away altogether from South African cricket.
He still wants to play in next year’s T20 World Cup, and has definitely taken on the personal responsibility of growing the Mzansi Super League in its second season this year, even turning down lucrative offers to play in T20 Leagues elsewhere around the world.
“I am fully available for MSL. That’s my first priority. I want to send a message to people that I still want to play for South Africa and that I don’t want to let it go. I am still fighting for my T20 spot, he said with a smiles.
“Plus it is a big thing for South Africa. I still have an offer to go somewhere else, but I make sure with Cricket South Africa that I want play Mzansi because I want to give the message that I am loyal to our brand, which South Africa created. It is for youngsters, which we never had before, and maybe that’s why we keep losing players.
“It is such a big thing happening in South Africa.
“Last year we really enjoyed it whoever I spoke to. Me playing in that league gives a good message to the youngsters, which I want to create,” Tahir explained.
Mohammad Imran Tahir may have been born in Lahore, but it might as well have been Laudium for he is a true South African legend. And he will be sorely missed after he walks away into the ODI sunset in Manchester tomorrow.@ZaahierAdams