South Africa v India, 1st ODI, Durban January 11, 2011

Smith excited to have Tahir in squad


Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, says having an attacking spinner like Imran Tahir in his side is "something that I have dreamt of throughout my captaincy." Tahir, who was born in Pakistan, was named in the South Africa one-day squad for the five-match series against India days after receiving citizenship and has since also been picked in the 30-man preliminary World Cup squad.

Smith said he is looking forward to helping the 31-year-old legspinner, Tahir, feel at home in the national set up. "It's about getting to know him a little bit as a person; spending some time with him is going to be crucial." Smith said. Tahir's rise in status, from domestic player with promise to international player on the verge of greatness, has come at lightning speed and the anticipation surrounding his debut is at fever pitch.

Smith tried to downplay the pressure factor, saying the most important thing was to manage Tahir properly. "I just want to let him find his feet and grow in the environment." The hype surrounding Tahir may end in anticlimax instead of crescendo when the first ODI in Durban starts on Wednesday because inside sources say it is "unlikely" he will play.

While the spotlight has been firmly fixed on Tahir, there are still 13 other squad members to think about and with this being the last ODI series before the World Cup in February, Smith has a lot on his mind. He is aware conditions in South Africa are totally dissimilar to the conditions in the subcontinent, where the World Cup will be played. "It's going to be very difficult to produce Nagpur out at the Wanderers." Still, Smith realised the series was important in terms of getting mentally ready for the World Cup. "Our mindset is very crucial here. We want to play really good cricket and get the confidence up and players need to get good performances under their belt."

South Africa still have a few questions to answer before they pick their World Cup squad and Smith is hoping this series will provide some of those solutions. Being without Jacques Kallis for all five matches allows an opportunity for someone else to establish themselves in the allrounder's role and Smith hopes it will be Wayne Parnell. "Wayne Parnell heads the pack in terms of developing his batting and his bowling and we are trying to get him to a point where he could play that number eight role, performing with both bat and ball." Parnell is widely known as an aggressive left-arm seamer but he has shown confidence with the bat and played as an allrounder at national Under-19 level.

Parnell is part of a group of youngsters that are starting to form the new core of the South African one-day team. Colin Ingram, David Miller and Faf du Plessis are some of the others and Smith wants to make sure that he, personally, plays a role in mentoring the future stars of South African cricket. "They are young guys trying to stake claims [for a place]. It's my job to be sort of the more mature figure around the group at the moment and give them the guidance that will allow them to play their natural games."

Smith made clear how much he will rely on vice-captain Johan Botha to assist him in this task. Botha's worth as a cricketer, which is often questioned by critics, was given a sure-fire validation when he was picked up for $950,000 by the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL auction. Smith referred to Botha as one of the premier allrounders in the side and as someone who directs the game for South Africa. "Johan has been excellent; he really controls the game for us." Botha is being tipped to take over the one-day captaincy when Smith relinquishes his post after the World Cup.

Smith had previously said how much he would treasure winning an ICC trophy before stepping down and the World Cup will be his last opportunity to do so. Smith said the team is doing everything they can to ready themselves for February's tournament. "Everybody is just trying to develop their games in different aspects, trying to bring new shots into their game and trying to move forward with the times. We have been working on certain things for a while now."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jimmy on January 12, 2011, 12:46 GMT

    Smith is clearly talking about his excitement at having Tahir in the test team. South Africa have almost never had a spin bowler with the ability to bowl a test side out on a wearing wicket. That's a serious handicap for a captain. Tahir obviously still has to prove himself at that level, but at least the potential does seem to be there. If he does turn into even a decent wicket-taking test bowler that would make a big difference to the side.

  • Prem on January 12, 2011, 11:21 GMT

    When did Smith say he was stepping off the captaincy? Its strange, the South African ways. I thought they too would like unity at the top. Smith hasn't done so bad recently, has he? Why is he quitting the captaincy, first in T20's, and now in ODI's?

  • Firhaat on January 12, 2011, 8:34 GMT

    I like Kunal007's team, except that i'd leave out David miller and bring in faf du Plessis. I like that he can bowl some pretty good leg spinners - this might be usefull if the other spinners in the team a going around a bit.

  • Dummy4 on January 12, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    @Paramjit Some guys like you never change , do you ? Before Indians went to SA u guys were predicting a whitewash by SA ... Now that did not happen and u guys seem to put blame on umpiring ... And I am thinking what u guys would say if India win the ODI series ... Start thinking now itself .... Get another reason to decredit the Indian performance

  • Dummy4 on January 12, 2011, 5:42 GMT

    @Morpheus: WHen did Smith say in the entire article that Tahir is a threat? And the Steyn + Morkel threat definitely did work, in case you didn't watch, SA should have won 3-0 if 9 decisions didn't go against them.

    I hope Tahir does well. It'll be a new day for SA when a Pakistani legspinner makes his debut for SA. I wish him all the best. He should most definitely be selected for the world cup tho.

  • Kunal on January 12, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    I would like to put the "attacking spinner" term in a different perspective as far as SA is concerned. My interpretation of the term would be Smith is delighted with an attacking spinner as SA short term future (4-5 years since Tahir is already 30+). Not this series only. When was the last time they had a spinner who would not mind going for runs in return for wickets? Spinners traditionally have been used to contain batsmen in SA teams. Only Botha has done relatively well overall.

  • ashok on January 12, 2011, 5:23 GMT

    "India Vs Pakistan" is in every blood of indian and pakistani... I am sure that there is going to be exiting cricket in the ODI series, but all the batting show depends only on Amla(Indian again !) and Kallis... and the bowling on Steyn and Botha period.

  • Sumit on January 12, 2011, 4:11 GMT

    There he goes again. When Steyn + Morkel threat did not work, he has now come down to TAHIR as a threat. Some people never change and learn from there BITTER experiences.

  • Moha on January 12, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    Tahir may be a good spinner and I wish him all the best. But I don't understand the "term attacking spinner". Come on; World already have seen several attacking spinners and all subcontinental players play well to any attacking spin. Even Warne was thrashed by Arjuna during 90's.

  • cool on January 11, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Tahir isnt going to make a huge difference in the side.I should say both awould be much effective than him.I hope Tahir doesnt get carried away with the excitement that he is playing for SA not pak.He is going to have hard time with Indians, and is going to get thrashed badly by Raina and Co.Good luck.

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