Bowler’s wicket-taking oomph surely turns Tayfield in his grave
THE world knows when Imran Tahir takes a wicket.
With a reckless tear into the outfield, madly jerking limbs and a raw yawp, he announces his success like a fireworks display made human.
Hugh Tayfield, who played in an era when bowlers could expect a demure slap on the back and, if they claimed five wickets, perhaps a handshake, must be spinning in his grave.
“It’s just in me, I think – I don’t practice for that, but that’s how I play my cricket,” Tahir said when he was asked, not entirely seriously, whether his celebration was part of his training regime.
Tahir told the story of what happened after he took “a very good catch” while playing in England.
“I ran out of the ground, and people had to tell me which way to go to get back. I was on the road somewhere; I didn’t know where I was. True stor y.
“I can’t really tell you why I celebrate like I do. I just want to enjoy everything I do for this team.
“This is a dream. There are millions of people who do not have the opportunity to play for this team, the opportunity I have
“Every wicket I take is for SA and for me, and it’s given me such joy. I don’t know why it comes out like it does. I have no answer for this.”
Tahir can stop explaining himself: he does have something to shout about. Fifteen things, in fact. That is how many wickets he has taken at the World Cup, which makes the leg spinner the deadliest SA bowler in the tournament. And that in a team that harbours a passion for pace and some of the best fast bowlers around.
The most bowlers can expect from pitches in this World Cup is that they will yield 300 and not 400 runs. So how do we explain Tahir and off-spinner JP Duminy sharing seven wickets in SA’s quarterfinal triumph over Sri Lanka in Sydney on Wednesday?
“I think the fast bowlers set the standard for us,” Tahir said. “If they didn’t do well, then it wasn’t going to be easy for us.”
Tahir does profit from the pressure SA’s quality quicks put on batsmen, but mostly he earns his keep with fine control, sharp enough turn, plenty of variation and searing intensity.
However, for all that to come together he needs a captain who knows what he is doing.
“[Spin] changes the pace of the game completely,” AB de Villiers said. “All captains use that kind of tactic to see if the batsman can adjust the pace of his game.
“There are a lot of reasons why spinners have always played a big part in big tournaments like this. It’s just a matter of using them at the right time.”
Morne Morkel is one wicket behind Tahir, and while Dale Steyn’s numbers are not what was expected – he has only just crept into double figures for victims after bowling 60 overs in seven matches – he let fly in the quarterfinal like the spearhead he is.
“I don’t often post selfies but I saw this pic and thought, ‘Who is this person?’,” was how Steyn captioned a photograph on social media this week. The picture is of Steyn screaming in celebration – hair flying, veins bulging, eyes popping. “#Possessed,” was his hashtag.
But he has a way to go to match Tahir. In a video posted on SA’s social media page, he leads the team in a chant in a way that can only chill opponents’ blood. Possessed indeed.
Doubtless, Tayfield would not approve.