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OTD | South Africa’s star leg spinner Imran Tahir was born today in 1979

OTD | South Africa’s star leg spinner Imran Tahir was born today in 1979

South Africa is known as a land of pacers and over the years they have produced some of the finest pacers international cricket has ever seen. But for a long period, they didn’t have a world-class spinner by their side who had taken over 200 wickets in international cricket. 

Australia on the one hand had Clarie Grimmett, and Shane Warne in the 1900s, on the other hand, England had Derek Underwood in their ranks. West Indies found their spin hero in the form of Lance Gibbs in their first 50 years of presence and even Zimbabwe had Graeme Cremer who took over 200 international wickets. 

But among the top test-playing nations, it took South Africa more than 120 years to stamp his dominance in international cricket with his spin prowess and take 200 international wickets. That spinner for South Africa was none other than the Pakistan-born Imran Tahir. 

The Lahore-born pacer who is known for his iconic running celebration became the first international bowler to take more than 200 wickets for South Africa in all formats combined. Born on 27th March 1979 in Lahore Pakistan, Imran Tahir is celebrating his 45th birthday today, therefore on this momentous occasion, let’s take a deep dive into his intriguing career that had its ups and downs yet he emerged as the best South African spinner till date.

Imran Tahir’s journey from Pakistan to African shores 

Imran Tahir was born and brought up in Lahore and represented Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup in 1998 and A teams. He wanted to represent the Pakistan national team but things didn’t work out, therefore he decided to migrate to South Africa to pursue his cricketing dreams.

His wife who is a South African national played an important role in his migration where he completed his four-year resident requirement and represented South Africa in 2009. The dearth of quality leg spinners in South Africa and Imran Tahir’s talent complemented each other quite well and soon Tahir became a regular feature in the South Africa national team.

Imran Tahir’s journey to become South Africa’s No.1 spinner 

Imran Tahir’s first major success in international cricket was the 2011 ODI World Cup held in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. He took 14 wickets in the World Cup in just 5 matches and was South Africa’s 2nd best bowler in the tournament. 

One would think that after such a performance it would have been his time in South African cricket but who knew that he would get his next gig in the South African ODI team 2 years later in 2013? One of the prominent reasons for this was his dismal performance in the red ball format. After the 2011 World Cricket, Tahir played 11 Tests for South Africa in which he could manage only 26 wickets at a poor average of 50.2. 

But Imran Tahir would not give p that easily. He made a comeback in ODI against Pakistan in UAE in 2013 where he picked up 9 wickets in just 4 matches and became a permanent member of the South African team from thereon.

Imran Tahir’s role in South Africa’s rise in South Africa’s spin dominance 

South Africa had a dismal record in the spin department during the 2000-2010 period. Their spinners scalped only 254 wickets during this period which was the least among all the test-playing nations. But things changed after 2011 and during the period 2011-2020, South African spinners took 361 wickets which were more than Australia, New Zealand, and West Indies and at par with countries with the best spin bowling attack like India.

Imran Tahir played a prominent role in the ascend of the South African spin attack as he played 107 of the total 179 ODIs that were played by South Africa during this period. In fact, in 2007, Imran Tahir was ranked as the best T20I and ODI bowler by the ICC.

Imran Tahir IPL journey

Imran Tahir got a taste of the IPL first in 2014 and since then he has represented 3 teams in the IPL playing a total of 59 matches. In 59 matches he went on to take 82 wickets at an average of 20.8 and an impressive economy rate of 7.76.

 Imran Tahir represented Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in his first two seasons but his breakthrough season came with RPSG in 2017 where he ended up bagging 17 wickets in the season. From there he went on to represent the successful CSK franchise and even won the IPL trophy with them in 2021.

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