TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IMRAN Tahir should stick to cricket. Which, as the No. 1 ranked bowler in one-day internationals and T20s, he is doing better than most. Good, because his rugby knowledge is hopeless.
And that despite counting among his friends Sonny Bill Williams, the All Black backline star who has become close to South Africa’s cricketers, particularly those with whom he shares the Muslim faith.
“We always pray for him that he keeps doing well for New Zealand,” Tahir told reporters in Auckland on Thursday.
So far so fine.
Then Tahir put both feet into touch and bowled an accidental wrong ’un all in the space of eight short words: “ … but next time South Africa might beat them.”
The Springboks, who lost eight of the dozen tests they played last year, beat the All Blacks who won 13 of their 14 games?
Bowl the other one, Imran.
The South Africans, who arrived in New Zealand this week in preparation for a tour that starts with a T20 in Auckland on Friday, had already hooked up with Williams.
“Every time we’re here Sonny always comes to see us,” Tahir said.
“He’s a very kind man and we have a lot of respect for him.
“I wish I could have muscles like him but I’m happy with what I am – I’m not jealous of him.”
Tahir first met Williams two years ago, and it didn’t take long for the All Black to make an impression.
“We were walking on a street in Auckland, and I could see people’s reaction and I was blown away,” Tahir said.
“He stopped for everyone and took pictures.
“I’ve never seen someone who’s that famous.”
At 1.78 metres tall and slight, Tahir is correct in that he doesn’t make the same visual impact as the 1.94 metre, 108 kilogramme Williams.
And, especially in New Zealand, few people in any field are as famous as Williams.
But there’s no doubting that Williams cannot bowl as well as Tahir.
In fact, officially, neither can anyone else.
Tahir did not follow the tedious convention of downplaying the significance of the rankings.
“It’s very special,” he said. “When I started playing cricket I ever thought I’d be the No. 1 bowler.
“It’s all the hard work I’ve done and I’m very excited.
“There are a lot of good players in world cricket and coming out on top of that is a really good achievement.
“I’m really grateful.”
Grateful? To who?
“It’s an absolute honour playing for South Africa,” Tahir said.
“The boys have helped me over the years and made be the bowler I am today.”
Those boys, and millions of other South Africans, will be happy that Tahir has stuck to cricket.