JOHANNESBURG – Imran Tahir still has a vital role to play for the Proteas before he retires from the One-Day format after the World Cup later this year.
Although he was never in danger of losing his spot in the ODI side, there were some concerns about his form this season. Tahir said there were times he wasn’t at his best this summer, something with which Faf du Plessis agreed, but he remains a pivotal part of South Africa’s plans and his performance on Sunday at the Wanderers reminded everyone why.
“Immy will be the first to say he’s not been at his best,” said Du Plessis. “But with an experienced player, you know a good performance is just around the corner. We’ve been working hard in the nets with him to get the shape of the ball better, and through practice this week he was really good.”
Tahir bowled with great control and rhythm, flighting the ball beautifully and mixing up his pace effectively. He provided a constant threat through the middle overs allowing the Proteas to command the game at a time when Sri Lanka’s aggression was close to tilting the match their way.
“I felt really good, I always want to take wickets. It happened (on Sunday), and I was happy that I was able to perform my role for the team,” he said.
“I’ve been okay with my performances wherever I’ve played, it’s just that every day is a new challenge. I’ve put in the hard work, I was happy that I played my role in the first match. But even in the previous games, for the Dolphins and against Pakistan I did okay.”
Tahir’s decision to retire from ODIs was not that surprising given his absence from the list of contracted players announced by Cricket SA last week. He, and it is understood JP Duminy, have reached an agreement with CSA that will see the pair be allowed to seek opportunities in T20 Leagues around the world. However they must avail themselves for selection for next year’s World T20 tournament in Australia.
“Obviously I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten from Cricket SA,” Tahir said.
Tahir has played 95 ODIs, making his debut at the 2011 World Cup and taken 156 wickets at an average of 24.56 and with an economy rate of 4.56. He has been a crucial part of South Africa limited overs strategy with the ball in the last eight years and remains that way, as he demonstrated on Sunday.
“I’d love to play as long as I can. But you reach a stage in your life when I think you have to make some big decisions and this is one of the biggest - definitely the biggest of my life,” he said.
Although he still looks fit, the physical toll of a 50-over match is much harder to overcome than a T20 game, and the soon-to-be 40-year-old believes he’d offer the Proteas more in the shortest format. “If I’m playing T20 cricket, I feel I can give a lot,” Tahir remarked.
He said other spinners, including Tabraiz Shamsi, Aaron Phangiso, Dane Piedt and Shaun von Berg were deserving of an opportunity in the ODI side.
“They’re younger, and so I have to work twice as hard to stay ahead of them. Look, I don’t want them to play, we are all fighting for the same spot, I just want to be honest, I don’t want to leave, but that’s how it is.”
Tahir’s sole focus is the World Cup, and he wants to go out with a bang.
“If I have a good World Cup I’ll be grateful to god that I was part of this great team, whether I do well or not, I’ve made up my mind already. But I’m very excited about it.”@shockerhess