After 106 ODIs in which he wheeled off in wild celebrations after claiming 172 wickets, Imran Tahir is ready to play his last 50-over game for South Africa, writes DANIEL GALLAN.
Self-admittedly, the 40-year-old leg-spinner still possesses enough zip and guile to continue for another few years at the elite level.
But with his sights set on the T20 World Cup in 2020, and his desire to hand the baton to emerging youngsters in the national set-up, he is content with his decision to step aside after the Proteas’ final World Cup game against Australia on Saturday.
‘Something in my soul will still feel like I am missing out,’ he confessed. ‘It won’t be easy watching others wearing the green and gold but I am satisfied. Hopefully the team will go a long way and make South Africa proud.’
There is no doubt that he has made many of his adopted countrymen proud over an international career spanning eight years. Now, looking to the future, he hopes to leave behind a legacy that transcends his playing days.
‘I would love to coach,’ he said. Indeed, he is often seen working closely with his protégé Tabraiz Shamsi and even opposition spinners shortly after games have concluded. ‘I was never coached and had to work harder than others. I want to help people because I never got that help. I have the belief that I can pass on my skills and experience.’
But how will he be remembered? Of course, the energy he brought into the South African side will be fondly recalled for generations. As will his ripping googlies and the way he injected life into the Proteas’ spin-bowling culture. Now that the end is in sight, does he feel he has been appreciated by the fans?
‘Definitely,’ came his immediate response. ‘That is what has kept me going for the last three years. I feel the love. I feel the people respect me. I feel the rainbow nation. I am just really grateful to everybody.’
He has an opportunity to bow out with a victory over the old enemy. Though he referenced South Africa’s 5-0 clean sweep at home in 2016, and the 2-1 victory Down Under in 2018, he does not have the best record against the Aussies.
In 16 matches he has collected only 17 wickets at an average of 38, down from his career average of 24. His best return of 2-39 was registered back in 2016. He will be desperate to improve on that this weekend.
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