Tahir's Protean move bearing fruit

Lahore-born spinner all set to make his international debut for SA

A few days after getting South African citizenship and being drafted into the one-day side to play India, the 31-year-old was on Monday included in the Proteas’ provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup, at the expense of Jonathan Vandiar. It is more or less certain that on Wednesday, Tahir will make his international debut, at Kingsmead at a ground he now calls his home.

The much-travelled leggie moved to Durban this season from Titans in Centurion, ostensibly to play more games and press his claims for selection. Originally picked in the South African squad early last year to play England at home, he had to be left out after failing to meet eligibility criteria, having played for Pakistan ‘A’ as late as 2006.

“It’s a very big honour for me, it’s the only dream I’ve had,” an emotional Tahir told newsmen on Monday afternoon. “It’s always tough for a spinner to bowl against India, I know they have batsmen who have ton and tons of runs against their names.

“But I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve been bowling well the whole season,” added Tahir, who took six wickets in each innings for Dolphins against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. “I’ve got a lot of confidence. If I put in good energy and take it with me, when I get the opportunity, hopefully I can do well. I have always been an attacking bowler. I might go for runs and get wickers, that’s my role. Whatever suits the team, I will go with that plan. I will bowl defensively if I have to. But I am more than happy to go for a few runs and get a few wickets.”

Looking forward to the World Cup experience, he went on, “It’s every cricketer’s dream to play in the World Cup. If I am in the top 30, I am very pleased. Hopefully, I get picked and I will give my 100 percent for the country,” noted Tahir. “Bowling leg-spin is difficult, maybe that’s why a lot of young people don’t do it.”

The other uncapped player in the Protean one-day squad is Francois du Plessis, a 26-year-old batsman who played under-19 cricket alongside AB de Villiers and JP Duminy but has taken his time braking through the senior ranks. “I am absolutely soaking it in – that’s my first practice,” he gushed. “It’s awesome to see how quickly the guys take you in and make you part of the family. Graeme’s (Smith) first words were to congratulate and say well done and you’re part of my family. I felt at ease in practice.”

Welcoming the challenge of playing a strong Indian side, which had a lengthy training session in the evening, Du Plessis said, “They are number one in Test cricket. It’s nice to play against the best in the world and see how good you really are.”

Du Plessis will play for Chennai Super Kings in IPL IV. “I have not spoken to MS (Dhoni). I just know that he is the captain, a very well respected captain and for me to play under one of the better captains in the world, I am really looking forward to it,” went on Du Plessis, also a part-time leggie.

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