South Africa's Imran Tahir has decided to retire from ODIs after the 2019 World Cup. The legspinner, who made the announcement following his match-winning 3 for 26 in the first ODI against Sri Lanka, has stated that he would still be available for T20Is, at least until the 2020 T20 World Cup.
Tahir, who will turn 40 later this month and is contracted to Cricket South Africa only until July 31, said that the decision was taken with a "mutual understanding" between the board and him. He was not handed a contract for the 2019-20 season, which put a question mark over his long-term future in international cricket.
"I have always wanted to play in the World Cup," Tahir said in a statement released by CSA. "It would be a great achievement for me to play for this great team. I have a mutual understanding with Cricket South Africa and going forward I decided that I would finish at the World Cup, that is why I am contracted until then.
"After that, Cricket South Africa has allowed me to go and play around the world in various leagues but I would also love to play T20 cricket for South Africa. I think I have the ability and can play a role in T20 cricket for South Africa. I am grateful for the opportunity."
Tahir has represented South Africa in 95 ODIs, taking 156 wickets at 24.56. He became the joint-fastest South African - Allan Donald and Morne Morkel being the others - to 150 ODI wickets during the match against Australia in Perth last year, achieving the feat in 89 matches.
It was during the 2011 World Cup that Tahir had made his ODI debut, in South Africa's opening match against West Indies in Delhi. He made a major impact in the tournament, finishing as South Africa's second-highest wicket-taker with 14 wickets at an economy rate of 3.79.
He added that this move would also open up spots for other spinners, who according to him "need the opportunity".
"I don't want to lose my spot. I have to work twice as hard, they are younger than me. I just want to be honest, I don't want to leave, but that's how it is. There is a stage in your life where you have to make big decisions, this is one of those big decisions, it is definitely the biggest decision of my life. I also feel there are a couple of good spinners in the country who need the opportunity. We are fighting for the same spot, but looking to the future, they will have more opportunities to play for South Africa."
Tahir has played 20 Tests and 37 T20Is for South Africa, besides being a regular presence in franchise leagues all around the world. He showed some of his best form against Sri Lanka on Sunday prompting his captain Faf du Plessis to gush: "That was the Immy of old, the Immy that has won us games single-handedly in the past. He's my go-to man in the middle. We need him to be on top of his game at the World Cup, so it was really good to see that (performance)."