TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IMRAN Tahir runs a long way to celebrate the wickets he takes for South Africa’s short format teams, but he will never be too far away from the sides who are central to what he calls “my main goal in life”.
Never? That’s a long time.
And Tahir, who turns 38 in less than two months, is surely approaching the end of his career.
How long did he plan to keep playing for the team that gave him a break almost six years ago?
“As long as I can,” Tahir said on Saturday after bowling South Africa to victory in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park.
“I’m doing well in the field, I am enjoying myself.
“As long as I am doing well for the team, that’s my main goal in life.
“When I feel I am not, I will be honest with myself.
“As long as the nation is happy with me, I will keep going.”
The nation is indeed happy.
On Saturday, doing what he does best, Tahir ripped the heart out of the Lankans by removing Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga in the space of 15 of his deliveries.
Those wickets took their place among the 114 he has claimed in his 65 ODIs.
His average of 23.05, economy rate of 4.61 and strike rate of 29.9 put him on top in career terms of all three categories among South Africa’s current bowlers.
In 30 T20 internationals Tahir has 49 scalps at 14.61. His economy rate is 6.39 and his strike rate 13.7.
He is the top ranked spinner at No. 3 in the ODI bowling rankings, a list he headed in 2015, and No. 1 overall in T20s.
No-one took more wickets for South Africa in either format last year than Tahir, who also led the way in ODIs in 2015 and in T20s in 2014.
His 7/45 against West Indies in St Kitts in June is the best performance by a South African in an ODI.
But, for all that, Tahir will be best remembered by some for his rifle shot throw from deep point at Newlands in October that ran out David Warner and helped South Africa complete a 5-0 ODI series whitewash over Australia.
That and the lengthy, vividly animated stream of invective he had unleashed at Warner in preceding overs.
No team could not ask for more from one player than Tahir gives to South Africa – his adopted team.
Lahore-born Tahir famously moved to South Africa not to pursue a career that has seen him play for 21 major teams in three countries, but for the love of a woman who is now his wife.
“Playing for South Africa is an absolute honour,” Tahir said.
“Every game, I take more than seriously.
“I think of it as my last game and that I need to do well.”
His last game?
He’ll celebrate a few more birthdays before that sad day comes.