Tahir turns tough time into triumph

Alvin Reeves

SOUTH Africa test captain Graeme Smith is thrilled with the way in which Imran Tahir has bounced back into international cricket and is keen to see him become an even better bowler this summer.

The Proteas are involved in a shorter-format series against Pakistan and welcome India and Australia over the next three months for tests and limited-overs fixtures.

Speaking at the launch of SuperSport’s new 24-hour cricket channel in Johannesburg yesterday, Smith said he saw Pakistan-born legspinner Tahir playing a major role for the Proteas this summer if he could maintain the kind of form he displayed during the tour of the United Arab Emirates.

“It was terrific to see him go from strength to strength,” Smith said. “I felt that up front in the UAE he was bowling well in the nets. You feel a different sort of fizz on the ball and a real confidence in what he was doing and probably a greater experience in what needed to be done at international level.

“It was fantastic for us as a group of players to see someone respond after having such a tough time. He was given support back home in order to grow and through himself came back and had an incredible tour of the UAE,” Smith said.

Tahir disappointed in Adelaide last November returning no wickets for 260 runs – the worst ever in tests. But, after missing out in the first test against Pakistan, he returned to the test side for the second test and produced match-winning figures of eight for 130.

He then made an immediate impact in the shorter versions and finished the tour with 21 wickets in seven matches across all formats.

“We also have to bear in mind it was his first proper tour to subcontinent-type conditions and he really showed his worth and bowled extremely well. He was probably the biggest game changer for us in the shorter formats. In particular, he bowled really well in the second test match which was great.”

Meanwhile, Smith said the team were looking forward to the summer despite the disappointment of the Indian tour being shortened.

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