Time for Sohail Tanvir to resurrect his reputation
Sohail Tanvir, like so many Pakistan fast bowlers before him, appeared to have all the makings of the next best thing. He could swing the ball, reverse-swing the ball, bowl an impressive yorker as well as a slower ball, deliveries he attributes to his days of playing tape-ball cricket, and possessed impeccable control to go with his variations. He was different from the rest of the pack because he bowled off the wrong foot, making his action somewhat of a mystery to opposition batsmen.
Tanvir's best assets were on display during the first IPL, in 2008, when he picked up the purple cap for finishing as the tournament's highest wicket-taker with 22 scalps at an average of 12.09. It is a tournament Tanvir still talks about as an important experience. "At that time I was really young and quite new to international cricket," he told ESPNcricinfo. "My team were underdogs, we had only a few big names. It was a great experience and it was a big honour for me to be the top bowler out of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock and other big names."
Those IPL wickets earned Tanivr a run in the Pakistan one-day team for the rest of 2008. Big things were expected of him in the 2009 World Twnety20. They didn't come and neither did the consistency Tanvir was striving for. Instead, a back problem followed by a crippling, recurring knee injury arrived, one that ruled him out of the 2010 World Twenty20, the 2011 World Cup, tours of Australia and England and an Asia Cup.
"It was tough sitting out for one-and-a-half years, especially because it was a really serious injury," Tanvir said. "There was a time when I thought my career was finished." After making a brief comeback against New Zealand earlier this year, Tanvir thought he was back on track but the knee problem recurred and the PCB sent him to Australia to undergo surgery. "I thought I was finished but the PCB management supported me. My family also backed me. They pushed me to work hard and said you can make a comeback again."
His real return only came in May, when he played for Pakistan A against Afghanistan and then captained Rawalpindi Rams to the Faysal Bank T20 Super Eights title. It was a format of the game Tanvir was comfortable and reputed in, and the leadership role aided him in his comeback. "It was good to play lots of first-class games and T20 matches with my domestic team and also to be captain of a team that won that championship."
In some ways, it allowed him to relive his IPL experience, arguably still the most successful outing of his career, because he applied the principles he learnt from former Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne. "I also had a young team like he [Warne] did and he knew how to get the most out of them. He had a lot of things to surprise the opposition batsmen and I learnt from that. When I was bowling, he came to me and always said that if you are able to surprise the batsmen you will get success. If you have variation you will get success. I applied this to my team as well."
Importantly, Tanvir found his own form again and "bowled with good rhythm," taking six wickets in five matches at an average of 23.16 in the Twenty20 tournament. With Pakistan using the Zimbabwe series as a chance to blood new talent and reintroduce some players, Tanvir has an ideal opportunity to show his worth, especially in the Test format, in which he has played just two matches.
In conditions that he describes as "similar to Pakistan because of the dryness," and the expectation of reverse-swing, there can be no better place and time to announce himself again. Tanvir knows he can't ride on his reputation forever and hopes to start creating a new one in this series. "It's quite an important series for me. It is history what I did before; it was two and half years ago. It's a new beginning for me now."