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May 16, 2012
Imran Tahir, the South African legspinner, will prepare for the much-anticipated Test series against England with long-time mentor Abdul Qadir. Tahir is set to travel to Lahore to meet Qadir for personalised training before the national team heads to England in July, with the No. 1 Test ranking in their sights.
"It will be a very big series and if I do something special it will be one of the biggest achievements of my life," Tahir said at the Wanderers Stadium, his new domestic home. Tahir will represent the Lions franchise in the 2012-13 season, having moved there after two seasons at the Durban-based Dolphins. "I am not very similar but I am almost the kind of bowler which he [Qadir] was in his time so I want to get his help."
After the hype that surrounded Tahir's Test call up, he has performed below expectations. In his seven Test matches he has played for South Africa, claiming 18 wickets at an average of 37.05, and has not been the answer to South Africa's spin problem he was predicted to be.
In his defence, Tahir has had to battle in unhelpful conditions. Apart from seamer-friendly surfaces, two of the Tests he featured lasted only lasted three days and only two others went to five days. Instead of playing his natural game as a wicket-taker, Tahir has had to perform a more defensive role.
Both Gary Kirsten and Graeme Smith praised him for his ability to adjust, which Tahir said helped ease his worries about meeting expectations. "I had too much pressure on me to do something really good," he said. "But I had a lot of support from the boys and the management, especially the captain. He had to put the right field to defend because if I had gone for many runs, I would have been under more pressure."
When wickets did not come, Tahir resorted to the tactic of using as many variations as he had in his repertoire and earned nothing but criticism from those who thought he was trying too hard. He dismissed the notion of desperation and said that he is only hoping to make the most of being an international cricketer. "If I am playing for my country, I love to try as hard as I can. Inside I am always cool but no-one can see that," he said. "I want to try hard and make sure I don't relax and lose concentration and bowl a bad ball. I enjoy it that way."
Still, Tahir acknowledged that he has some work to do on some of his deliveries and will consult with Qadir to assist him. "He [Qadir] said anytime I need help I should talk to him but I feel it's better if I see him rather than talk to him on the phone," Tahir said. "He is a legend and he can help me big time. He can change small things. I think he can make me a better bowler than what I am now."
Tahir is also hopeful that the familiarity of playing in England will allow him to have more of a say in the course of the series. Tahir has spent some part of the last 12 years in the country. He played club cricket for eight season and county cricket for four. He is comfortable with the pitches and knows many of the English players, although he does not think their recent form against spinners will be something he can hope to exploit too much further.
"I've played with a few of the guys and against a few. They are a good team but I'm sure everyone is up for it. We want to beat them and take their place [at the top of the rankings]," he said. "I don't think they have been so bad against spin, apart from one series against Pakistan. We have to respect them. It's not going to be easy for us to beat them."
While the seam attacks of both sides are expected to headline the contest, there has been some suggestion that the difference will be in the quality of the spinners. Former England captain, Michael Vaughan posted a message on Twitter last week which read, "England's bowling attack is the best in the world. Would not swap it for any other. Not SA. Swann is the difference. Cheers."
Tahir refused to take the bait. "I won't say anything until we beat them. That's how we will prove him wrong."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Pataudi Jr caught a young English fan's fancy for his princely ways and his heroic batting