Imran Tahir is being saved as a secret weapon by South Africa for use in next month’s World Cup, but the opposition are not the only people he will catch by surprise.
Wicketkeeper AB de Villiers has yet to stand behind the stumps to the Pakistan-born legspinner in a match situation.
Adjusting to a wrist spinner, may prove a “challenge,” according to Daryn Smit, who is the wicketkeeper at the Dolphins franchise that Tahir plays for in domestic cricket.
Tahir only moved to the Dolphins this season and Smit said he learnt to keep to the legspinner by playing against him previously.
“I was lucky because I was able to pick him when I was facing him and that helped me when it came to keeping to him.” Tahir’s biggest variation from the legbreak is his googly, which is also his wicket-taking ball.
“The only way to pick it is to watch how it comes out of the hand,” Smit said, indicating that it is not easily read off the pitch.
“That’s the real difficulty, because you can’t be going one way for the legbreak and then he’s actually bowling a googly.” Even though Smit adjusted quickly to keeping to Tahir in the first-class competition, he still found it testing to do the job in the MTN40 limited overs tournament because of the number of day/night games.
“Imran is harder to pick up at night, especially when he makes subtle changes with his hand,” Smit said.
“Against a black sight-screen and under artificial lights, it takes some getting used to.” Three of South Africa’s six group stage matches are day-night affairs, including the opening match against West Indies.
Both their warm-up games will be played under lights, so de Villiers should have at least one opportunity to get used to Tahir in the dark.
It appears that de Villiers has a tricky job ahead of him, but Smit is confident in his ability to adjust to Tahir, having known de Villiers since his youth.
“A lot of people say AB is a part-time keeper, but I know that he isn’t.
At Under-19 level, I was the first-choice ‘keeper and he was the back-up and he was a good keeper,” Smit said.
de Villiers is not the only one who will have to adjust to having Tahir in the side.
South Africa have not had an aggressive spinner since Paul Adams and Graeme Smith will have to learn how to manage Tahir.
“He is an attacking spinner and that means he is going to go for runs.
It may mean setting slightly more defensive fields,” Smit said.
He advised that a little bit of risk, in allowing Tahir to concede a few runs, will go a long way because “every time he bowls I feel he’s got a chance to take a wicket.” While Smit is looking forward to seeing how Tahir fits into the South Africa side, the bulk of his anticipation is reserved simply for watching his team-mate make his debut.
He said that everyone in the Dolphins squad is eager to see Tahir bowl on the international stage.
“In this one-day series [against India], we waited for the starting line up every game to see if he was there.
We all know what a matchwinner he can be and we know he will do well.” Although Tahir has no international experience, Smit thinks he is more than ready to step up to the big stage.
“He has over 500 wickets at first-class level and even though it is very different to international cricket, the years of experience will have set him up well.
The conditions in the subcontinent should suit his bowling style.
“If he offers the national team half of what he’s offered the Dolphins, they’ll do well.”
Source: Yahoo! Sport – January 26, 2011