Imran Tahir is arguably the finest spinner to play for South Africa since their return to international cricket in 1991. His exploits with the white ball have made him one of the leading figures in the side, particularly during South Africa’s march in the 2010s.
However, the Pakistan-born leg-spinner had to prove himself in a setup renowned for producing some of the greatest fast bowlers like Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and Kagiso Rabada.
During an interaction with journalist Indranil Basu for SK Live, the 41-year-old Imran Tahir opened up on the opportunities presented by the art of leg-spin in T20s, and how he penetrated the pace-obsessed South African cricket set up.
“Leg-spin is an exciting art. Leg-spinners can change the game, and need to have a big heart and keep looking for a challenge. Leg-spin is more than just tossing the ball up in T20s. If you are a leg-spinner, take your art seriously.
“Leg-spinners can keep adding variations. The way the sport is moving, you can’t rely on one type of ball. It’s important to keep learning. Even today I keep going to the nets and look for opportunities to learn something new,” said Imran Tahir.
Born in Lahore, Imran Tahir grew up idolising Abdul Qadir and played junior cricket for Pakistan. He represented the country in the Under-19 World Cup in 1998.
In 2005, he became a South African citizen through his marriage. He started playing for Titans and later became eligible to play for South Africa after meeting his four-year residence requirement in 2009.
“I am grateful to the opportunity South Africa provided me. Had it not been for my teammates and the captains I played under, I wouldn’t have been here,” Imran Tahir added.
As a spinner, Imran Tahir took it as a challenge to change the perception of a nation known for its pace culture.
“When I reached there (South Africa), I knew the culture was all for fast bowling, and I was a spinner. I had to get into the system and make the selectors believe that leg-spin can change a game and compliment the seamers. I hope I managed to justify that. In the process, I tried to learn more and gave my 200% for South Africa,” added Imran Tahir.
Making his international debut in 2011, Imran Tahir went on to claim 293 international wickets in the next eight years, and is regarded as one of the finest bowlers of all-time in limited-overs cricket. He plays for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL and remains one of the most sought after cricketers in franchise cricket.