South Africa news January 10, 2011

The journey almost complete for Tahir and du Plessis

ESPNcricinfo staff
It's unusual to see two South African spinners in a team. It's particularly uncommon to see two South African legpinners in the same space. On Monday afternoon, that rarity became a reality

It's unusual to see two South African spinners in a team. It's particularly uncommon to see two South African legpinners in the same space. On Monday afternoon, that rarity became a reality as two members of the endangered species occupied the same press conference podium.

Both are debutants, but besides a burning desire to represent South Africa, Imran Tahir and Faf du Plessis have little in common. The former was born in Pakistan, first came to South Africa when he was 19 years old, fell in love with a woman from Durban and after returning to marry her, faced an uphill battle to become a citizen. The latter was born in Pretoria, had played for the national team at under-19 level, then abandoned South Africa in favour of a Kolpak deal but has since returned to the fold.

They make an unlikely pair, Tahir with his blonde highlights and rugged complexion and Du Plessis with his dark Mohawk and unblemished skin, Tahir answering some questions in his native Urdu, and du Plessis doing the same in Afrikaans. Soon, they will share the same ball, plot to get the same batsmen out and contribute to the same team. It's a team that has long been without an attacking spinner and may have a vacancy for a solid allrounder ahead of the World Cup, roles which Tahir and du Plessis could fit snugly into.

"It's every cricketer's dream to play in the World Cup," Tahir said. He has made no secret of his desire to go to the 2011 tournament in the subcontinent. He was named in the preliminary 30-man squad earlier on Monday, at the expense of Jonathan Vandiar and his prospects of participating in the showpiece event look strong. Tahir is not a South African by birth, but has strong ties to the country through his wife and says representing the Proteas is "the only dream I've had."

In order to secure his flight to India, he will have to translate his impressive domestic form into international success, something that will be challenging. Indian batsmen are some of the best players of spin and Tahir knows that. "It's always tough for a spinner to bowl against India," he said.

Apart from the quality of the opposition Tahir will be up against, he may also find adjusting into the South African gameplan difficult. Spinners have traditionally been used in defensive and containing roles in South African cricket rather than as wicket-takers, the exact opposite of how Tahir views his own role. "I have always been an attacking bowler. I am more than happy to go for a few runs and get a few wickets."

It may mean South Africa go into matches with a few more slower bowling options so Tahir can stick to his natural game, but he has indicated that he is willing to change if it means earning a spot in the side. "I will bowl defensively if I have to."

He doesn't say that as though it will be a compromise. Tahir is too mature for those games. He understands that in order to succeed in the set up, he has to fit into the current puzzle and not start building one of his own. If he was someone else, there might have been doubt about his ability to do that but Tahir's youthful hunger blended with his experience and self-belief remove the question marks.

He talks like a man who is ready, mentally and physically, for international cricket. His years of bowling, both in South Africa and in England, mean he understands his own game thoroughly and is ready to showcase it. "I've got nothing to lose. I've been bowling well, the whole season. I've bowled well in country cricket. I've got a lot of confidence," Tahir said.

He has had a successful season with the Dolphins franchise in Durban, both in first-class and limited-overs cricket, and could make his international debut on his home ground, Kingsmead. It usually boasts a seamer-friendly green top but the groundsman has been preparing wickets tailor-made for Tahir throughout the domestic season and he said he enjoys bowling on the Durban pitch. "There's been a bit of both bounce and turn here. The groundsman has been preparing some nice wickets for me and I've been bowling really well here."

The anticipation that surrounds Tahir debut must make du Plessis feel like little more than a shadow. The allrounder has had a memorable week himself, having earned a national call up and secured an IPL deal with the Chennai Super Kings. "I can honestly say it's been the highlight of my whole life so far," he said.

Du Plessis enthusiasm bursts out of him whenever he is asked a question. He is a typical, fresh young face, eager to break into the national team. He arrived at the press conference in a wet shirt, a badge of honour from his exertion at practice. "I am absolutely soaking - that's how my first practice went. Graeme's first words were to congratulate us and say well done and you're part of my family."

His new status as an IPL player hasn't quite sunk in yet. He has his priorities arranged in chronological order. "I've got a lot of excitement for now to be playing for South Africa. It's the highlight of my career to be doing that now. When the IPL comes that will be another highlight for me."

It's a good thing that du Plessis has his timelime sorted out because rumours are circulating that he is the likelier of the two to play on Wednesday, batting at number seven or eight and sharing some of the fifth bowler duties. Luckily, du Plessis and Tahir are not mutually exclusive characters and there is the enough room for both of them, not just in a press conference, but also on the field.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gordon on January 13, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    Well Shashi Yr I will tell you what is the good of Tahir even though aged at close to 32 and that is he could possibly play up to eight years and then retire at 40. Some spinners do play as old as 40 and some until 38. As I am sure you are aware of.

  • Steve on January 11, 2011, 22:38 GMT

    Just wanted to echo some comments about the lack of credibility this article has. Since when is du Plessis a front-line bowler? I'll bet he hardly bowls an over in this series. It would be like previewing the ODIs between Australia and England and talking about Swann and Pietersen as off-spin twins. How did this article ever get published?!

  • Finn on January 11, 2011, 21:30 GMT

    I always thought Faf looked good at Lancashire and when he rejected his kolpak deal I didn't think it would be too long til he got his chance although batting at 7/8 is way too low. He averages in the the mid-40's! Miller isn't quite ready in my opinion.

  • Themba on January 11, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    But Faf is more of a batsman than a bowler. Even if he plays i think its unlikely he will bowl. He is a very talented batsman though probably as good as AB de villiers

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 19:31 GMT

    Parnell bowled nicely the other evening in the Pro20. The team for the World Cup Final (against England) should be: Smith, Amla, Kallis, AB, JP, Ingram, Faf, Botha, Parnell, Steyn, Tahir. I like match-winners. All 11 in the team are match winners in their own right that can turn games quickly. Albie Morkel, Jacques Rudolph, Robin Petersen have had too many chances without using them. Thami Tsolikile is a guaranteed negative influence on the team. Loots, Johan van der Wath, McLaren are also match winners, and the conditions in India will help Bosman and Roelof van der Merwe swing hard up front. It will be really interesting to see who gets selected!

  • Venkata on January 11, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    wow good to see a spin attack like this! my test team would be this smith, petersen/rossouw/ingram, amla, kallis, ab, prince/jp, boucher, parnell, tahir, steyn, morkel. my odi team would be smith, amla, kallis, ab, jp/ingram, duplessis(if he scores a couple of 50's here and bowl economically then he can replace miller or albie), parnell, botha, steyn, morkel, tahir(can play a couple of years and shud concentrate only on TESTS). and the squad shud include van der merwe, miller, ingram and theron for the WC...

  • Neil on January 11, 2011, 13:37 GMT

    Sadly, Cricinfo are rapidly losing their credibility (their typos, poor research and basic lack of knowledge of certain players and teams) as far as I'm concerned. How they misread the issue with Faf is beyond me.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 12:04 GMT

    @Vroomfondel, yip, leggies are something SA are truely missing now. A few rookies in the amatuer leagues is all they have... :-(

  • Hannes on January 11, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    Faf is a Batsmen who bats at 4 or 5 and who only bowls part time for the Titans. Usually as a fifth or sixth bowler. This article is, in comparison, like having an interview with Sehwag and Harbajan and calling it - an interview with two spinners.

  • Anil on January 11, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    Bring it on any one with your arsenal.. but he (I Tahir) little lucky as not veeru playing..I can't wait for those matches.. which they (IND) going to march from right to left and viceversa. Team IND bring it on...........all wishes for the WC.

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