Tahir keeps getting better
In the twilight of his career, smiling spinner still has so much to offer
YOU’VE probably already seen it on social media, and it should really come as no surprise, but the legend of Imran Tahir continues to grow and grow.
After the cameras had stopped rolling at Buffalo Park on Tuesday night, Tahir took Zimbabwe’s Brandon Mavuta out to the middle, and showed him a few pointers on the intricacies of leg-spin. Tahir didn’t have to do it, but he was more than happy to.
Mavuta, young and raw, would have been thrilled to get the expertise, because wrist-spin remains the single most difficult craft in the sport. In the middle of a series between the two nations, he had the world’s best leg-spinner giving him some handy hints.
Tahir has enjoyed a remarkable return to international action against Zimbabwe, with plenty of wickets, and the influence that he has become renowned for. Even at the tender age of 39, Tahir remains a bundle of joy in whichever team he turns out for.
They love him in English county cricket, as they do in the Caribbean. Even in India, eternal foes to his native Pakistan, they have come to embrace him in the IPL.
Tahir is cricketing cool, delivering the most temperamental trade, with the biggest smile on his face.
He gets so excited that he occasionally forgets when he is on a hat-trick. Which has been rather common of late.
They say that leg-spin control matures even later than batsmanship. It truly is that difficult to master.
The great Shane Warne admitted that it was only in his latter years, when he spun it less - but controlled it almost at will - that he felt truly at ease with his bowling.
Tahir is currently in that place, revelling in being able to call upon his full arsenal. He doesn’t sweat the half-trackers like he used to, safe in the knowledge that he will come back with a wicket-taking offering soon enough.
For all his exploits on the field, Tahir’s value off it is becoming even more significant to South African cricket.
He knows that even his seemingly endless summers will soon diminish into a permanent playing winter, and he will rest his magical mitts.
Before then, though, he has a job guiding the next generation into tomorrow.
Tabraiz Shamsi is his current project, the heir apparent to the spinning throne in limited-overs fare for the Proteas.
Tahir has had as many dinners with him as they have shared nets, because much of what they do is in the mind; holding your nerve when batters are trying to take you apart.
You can rest assured that, beyond the Mavuta masterclass in the middle, Tahir made time for Shamsi before lights out on Tuesday.
Increasingly, that leg-spinning shoulder to get on is becoming as important to South African cricket as his wickets.
Enjoy him while he is here, because he is one of a magical kind.
*Imran Tahir has been rested for the final T20 international against Zimbabwe on Friday.
Imran Tahir has been in prolific form for the Proteas against Zimbabwe.Picture – Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix