Imran Tahir has endured a bumpy road, from struggling to make a name for himself in his country of birth, to star-status for the Proteas.
Tahir’s journey began while representing Pakistan at the U19 World Cup in 1997-98, where he took seven wickets in the tournament, with a best return of 4-54.
But it was after failing to impress at county level, where the leg-breaker’s journey truly began.
Tahir was in desperate need of a break. It appeared to have finally come when, in 2005, the then-Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer recognised the 26-year-old’s potential. Woolmer saw to it that Tahir appeared in a Greens-versus-Whites trial match, as well as a match against England.
On both occasions, however, Tahir didn’t make a significant impact and a national contract went a begging. Nevertheless, Tahir was grateful for the opportunity that Woolmer afforded him.
‘I respected Bob a lot,’ said Tahir in an interview on ICC’s website.
‘He really wanted to give me a chance to play international cricket. On the other side, time was going quite quick and I was worrying that I wasn’t going to achieve the goals I’d set for my life and my career.’
The tide finally turned for Tahir when he impressed former Titans coach Richard Pybus. This also coincided with his breakthrough at county level for Hampshire. His debut figures of 12-189 remain a record.
Having married a South African woman, Tahir obtained his citizenship. Though he struggled to become a Test match regular for the Proteas, it was in the shorter formats that Tahir made his name.
Tahir took his game to the next level in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in 2014 by adding a variety of deliveries to his arsenal, which helped him to finish as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
‘I had two months off before that tournament, learning about my variations, bowling my sliders, flippers, googlies, toppies, leggies,’ he said.
‘Sumaya [my wife] used to stand in the back of the net and throw the ball back. I finished [joint] leading wicket-taker in that tournament, which gave me a lot of belief.’
Tahir spoke about the benefit of bowling to the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in practice, which helped him reach the summit of the ODI Bowler Rankings.
‘Also, because I’ve been bowling in the nets to such great players – AB, Hashim, Quinton, Faf – obviously you get a lot of confidence from that too. The feedback about your pace and line is really good,’ Tahir continued.
‘You get zero fear because you know if you can bowl to these guys then you can bowl to anyone in world cricket.’
Tahir concluded by stating that playing for the Proteas is ‘an absolute honour’, ahead of their clash against his country of birth in group B of the Champions Trophy.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images