Mohammad Imran Tahir
March 27, 1979, Lahore, Punjab
Right hand bat
Imran Tahir moved from Pakistan to South Africa via the UK for the love of a woman. In the process, he played for more than 25 teams, including four English counties, three South African franchises and an IPL team while carving a reputation as one of the best limited-overs' legspinners of his time. A feisty character with a celebration longer than most fast-bowlers' run-ups and a range of variations, Tahir made the googly his biggest weapon in the limited-overs formats.
That was not always what Tahir was being primed for. When he arrived in South Africa, after meeting his wife Sumayya during the 1998 Under-19 World Cup, he established himself in the first-class set-up. He was the third highest wicket-taker in the 2008-09 first-class competition and was called up to the South African Test squad in January 2010 during their home series against England.
However, later the same day the decision was overturned after it became clear Tahir was not yet eligible to play for South Africa. Tahir went back to the domestic circuit and consistently picked up wickets in the 2010-11 season, when he also became a citizen. Less than a week after he was naturalised, he was picked in South Africa's squad for the one-dayers against India. But he had to wait until the 2011 World Cup for his debut and he made an immediate impact. He finished the tournament as South Africa's second-highest wicket-taker.
That summer, Tahir made his Test debut against Australia in Cape Town, in the same match as Vernon Philander. Despite all the hype around how he would complete South Africa's attack, Tahir struggled for the same success he had at the domestic level in a pace-heavy pack and on pitches unsuitable for his style of bowling. In his 11th Test, against Australia in Adelaide in November 2012, it seemed the experiment was over. Tahir's figures were 0 for 260, the most expensive returns without a wicket in Test history, and he was dropped.
He remained out of contention in all formats until South Africa's tour to the UAE in October 2013, where he would play against his former countrymen. Tahir took his first Test five-for in Dubai but it did not earn him a more permanent place. Instead, he carved a niche for himself in the shorter formats, where he showed much more control with his craft.
Tahir earned a reputation for being able to contain the middle-periods of matches while also taking wickets, and his rise coincided with South Africa's limited-overs recovery, especially after the 2015 World Cup. Tahir was even more effective in the 20-over format and by April 2016 had risen to No.2 on the ICC bowler rankings.
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