Listed No. 1 in the ICC rankings for bowlers in ODIs and T20Is, Imran Tahir was "sad" and "down" after going unsold at the IPL auction two months ago. But an injury to Mitchell Marsh opened a door for Tahir: he was signed as a replacement and shone with 3 for 28 in Rising Pune Supergiant's seven-wicket win in their opening match against Mumbai Indians.
After Mumbai raced to 41 for 0 in four overs with consecutive sixes from Jos Buttler, Steven Smith brought on Tahir, who bowled Parthiv Patel around his legs and then removed Rohit Sharma and Buttler within the space of three balls in his next over.
"The way they were playing it looked like they were going to end up getting 200," Tahir told iplt20.com after the match. "I always love challenges, and when I bowl I always look to get wickets. I was very fortunate to get Patel out and obviously, the next two wickets were very special. Those guys were really good against spin bowling and it was very special for me that I got them out and [I'm] really, really happy with the way the ball came out. I've been here for one week and I'm trying to do well because it's a new team and they gave me a lot of confidence.
"I always come on the ground with a smile on the face but inside I'm always ready to fight and try to give as much as I can. I love doing what I'm doing and I always look for a challenge."
Tahir expressed how disappointed he was when no franchise picked him at the auction in February, when he had a base price of INR 50 lakhs. He had been released by Delhi Daredevils after an unimpressive IPL last year, playing four matches for five wickets with an economy rate of 8.62.
"I was obviously sad not to be part of this league [in the auction] but there's nothing I can do about it," Tahir said. "But really relieved and pleased with myself about playing the way I've been playing and just deliver it today.
"I'm grateful to god and my family supported me, especially my wife. I was quite down when I didn't get picked in the league. But our life carries on and I came here to prove myself again, that's what my job is. I don't blame no one for not picking me. My job, if someone picks me, is to come and perform, that's what we do for a living."
Supergiant played two legspinners - Tahir and Adam Zampa - in the absence of R Ashwin and left out Faf du Plessis from the XI. Zampa, their highest wicket-taker last season, did not impress as much as Tahir on Thursday, with 1 for 26 from three overs, but Ajinkya Rahane said the strategy of playing two attacking legspinners worked for them.
"Both of them are attacking, both of them look to take wickets, and that's very important in T20," Rahane said. "Zampa did well for us last year, and Imran Tahir is a world-class bowler. It's good to have them both in our side, and we, as a team, know they're always looking to take wickets."
Rahane gave Supergiant's chase of 185 impetus, scoring 60 off 34 that featured six fours and three sixes. He brought up his half-century off only 27 balls; Supergiant were 79 for 1 in the ninth over.
"When you're chasing 180-190, it's important to continue the momentum after the first six overs," Rahane said. "I knew I was batting really well, and striking the ball well. So, for me, it was really important to play with that same momentum. Smith was completely new [on the pitch] at that time. So, I just wanted to take my chances and play my normal shots. I mean, I didn't take any risks. But it was important for both of us to keep rotating the strike and hit one boundary or six in an over.
"When you are chasing 180 plus, it's the openers' job to consolidate the innings. For me and Mayank [Agarwal], our discussion was to play positive cricket. We did not set any target for the first six overs. We just wanted to play our attacking game, and later on just capitalise on that. Unfortunately, he got out, but I was batting well. And Smith was there, I told him I'll take my chances, and he should just carry on and play a long innings."