TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
PART of Imran Tahir’s strictly Bollywood biography is that he came to SA to wed a woman and, as a subplot, ended up playing international cricket. But it is at the Indian Premier League (IPL) that he has found his perfect match.
To see Tahir tear towards the boundary with arms outstretched, eyes aflame and throat wide open each time he takes a wicket for Delhi Daredevils – and to see the crowd and the cheerleaders and the fireworks follow his irrisistable lead – is to see a man immersed in his element.
Which only adds to the strangeness of Tahir failing for six years to find an IPL franchise that would have him. Then, last year, Delhi took the plunge and Tahir took nine wickets at an average of 19. The Daredevils lost all six of the matches Tahir played but so what – they lost 12 of their 14 games and finished last.
This year, under JP Duminy’s captaincy, Delhi have won three out of seven and Tahir’s 13 scalps have made him the tournament’s leading wicket-taker going into Tuesday’s match.
Thirteen mad dashes into the outfield in seven games is a lot even by IPL standards of excess; enough for Tahir to snatch the media spotlight.
“I don’t do it to impress people – this is me,” he told the Indian Express with a hearty thump of his chest. “This hunger has built up for years and years. It has to come out. I might get a heart attack if I keep it all bottled up. I’d rather give the batsman a heart attack.
“I have always believed in having a good time. I don’t want teams thinking, ‘Oh dear, another five long months with ‘Immy’’. You give happiness and you get it back.”
So far Tahir is the standout South African at the 2015, in which Morne Morkel is sixth among the wicket-takers with Duminy and David Wiese 15th and 16th with seven each and Chris Morris on five.
Dale Steyn is still in the doldrums that limited his contribution to SA’s World Cup cause to 11 wickets in eight matches. Steyn has missed four of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s seven games and has claimed just three wickets in his 11 overs.
But Steyn has done more than one of SA’s best bowlers at the World Cup: Kyle Abbott has yet to emerge from Chennai Super Kings’ dugout.
SA batsmen are fewer and further between on the achievers’ lists. Duminy has scored two half-centuries and is eighth among the runscorers. AB de Villiers has been unable to repeat his World Cup heroics, where he scored a century and three half-centuries in seven innings and averaged 96.40. The story of his IPL is 176 runs in five innings with a best effort of 47 not out.
What with the IPL in full swing prominent SA players are thin on the ground on the English county scene, where Vernon Philander has taken three wickets in as many first-class innings for Nottinghamshire. Hashim Amla is due in England next week for a short stint with Derbyshire and Abbott is set to join Middlesex after the IPL.
Nonetheless there has been a significant SA presence at the batting crease in first-class cricket in England this season. Of the 44 centuries scored six belong to South Africans who are unavailable for national selection here – Keaton Jennings, Johann Myburgh, twice, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Rudolph and Ashwell Prince.