New Zealand v South Africa, one-off T20I, Auckland February 17, 2017

Tahir muscles in to take IPL spotlight

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WATCH - Tahir's astounding five-for

With a career-best 5 for 24 to underline his No. 1 ranking in both limited-formats, Imran Tahir seems to have everything he could want at the moment, except maybe one thing.

"I wish I could have muscles like him," Tahir joked, the day before the one-off T20 against New Zealand in Auckland.

The person Tahir was referring to was Sonny Bill Williams, the New Zealand rugby player, boxer and signature bad-boy-turned-good, who is a close friend of Hashim Amla. Amla introduced Williams to Tahir and other team-mates including Wayne Parnell two years ago and they make a point of catching up when they're in the same country, and Tahir is still in awe of Williams' superstardom.

"When I first met him I was shaking because we were walking on a street in Auckland and I could see people's reaction and I was blown away," Tahir said. "He stopped for everyone and took pictures. I've never seen someone who's that famous."

Cricketers in South Africa seldom get similarly swamped, not even when they are dominating internationally the way Tahir is, and he knows that a more imposing physique will not change that. "I'm happy with what I am - I'm not jealous of him," Tahir clarified, amid some giggles. Imagine a Tahir with bulging biceps and thunder thighs.

Jokes aside, Tahir's body will soon come up in discussions about how much longer he will be able to play. He turns 38 next month and has been playing cricket at a high level for two decades but has managed to avoid major injury. Being a spinner, whose action does not cause as much wear and tear as a quick bowler's would, he is thought to have at least another two to three years, although he has suggested he could keep going for between five and ten. That doesn't seem so outlandish when considering that Tahir has stayed fit and become more athletic and agile in the field than he was when he first emerged on the international scene.

Tahir's dedication to his craft has only increased as his career has progressed. He maintains that having waited so long to play for South Africa - Tahir moved to the country in the mid-2000s but only become eligible to play for them in 2011, when he was 32 - he wants to hold on to it for as long as he can.

And there is maybe one other thing. The IPL auction takes place in three days' time and this T20 was a last audition for some of the players looking to get deals - though Tahir insisted it was only a passing thought to him. He was released by Delhi Daredevils and has a base price of US$75,000, which is just short of a million South African Rand.

Given how well Tahir has been performing recently, he is expected to fetch more than that. So while he may not have the muscles, he could soon boost his earnings by more than a million in one day.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hariharan on February 18, 2017, 7:23 GMT

    Please don't think Tahir does not have fans in India! I think he is a brilliant bowler with skill and flair. A leggie with control and some serious armoury, the game needs him in this batting dominating era. Go Immy!

  • Grassburn on February 18, 2017, 5:55 GMT

    Sheez! if so many guys hate Imi, he must be doing something right. World's best T20

  • keepcalmandslaptheumpire on February 18, 2017, 5:50 GMT

    No problem him not being muscly. He's definitely the most athletic of the bowlers despite his age and if he says he can go 5 years and keep performing then let him. Also a lot of angry Indians in the comments must be in denial remembering the last ODI he played against them where he ripped through the Indian middle order. Best limited overs spinner in the world and he's substandard if that's the case Ashwin must be playing u13's cricket because Tahir is miles ahead of him in the shorter formats and not even getting started on Jadeja who can't turn a ball if there's not a crack or pile of dust for it to land on.

  • Mushtanda on February 18, 2017, 5:19 GMT

    SHovwar- Looks like you only watch "global" cricket but have never really played the game. Rattling batsmen? Like a fledgling SL side, and a NZ team without Baz and taylor? Go ahead expose your ignorance.

  • Mushtanda on February 18, 2017, 5:12 GMT

    @Sundarar- Stay benighted. @BOKDROLPATROLLIE- second fastest in T20-- there you go. T20.

  • sundarar on February 18, 2017, 5:05 GMT

    AlexK400 then by ur glorious standards all bowlers in this world are useless....

  • Alexk400 on February 18, 2017, 4:42 GMT

    Tahir is useless. I stand by my word. Taking wickets against hopeless NZ count nothing. No bowler can be good against all teams. It showed how bad NZ team is against Spin. It almost like they never played against wrist spinner. I never like overhyping players. I hated when indian writers overhyping sachin achievement. People lose context when they write their story. Tahir did not won that game. kane williamson lost it with poor captaincy.

  • bundybear55 on February 18, 2017, 4:32 GMT

    232 International wickets + 1,225 FC wickets = sub-standard..? WOW...!!! I wonder how @MUSHTANDA rates poor the batsmen around the world who have become his victims...?

  • Bokdrolpatrollie on February 18, 2017, 3:47 GMT

    Mushtanda, the only way you can make a statement like that is if you know nothing of both formats. 2nd fastest to 50 wkts (T20) and you say he is substandard.

  • cricfan40660559 on February 18, 2017, 2:23 GMT

    He got to try walking with sachin tendulkar once.

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