If there is one person who epitomises the term ‘vagabond cricketer’, it will be Imran Tahir. Tahir has played competitive cricket for more than 25 different teams in four different countries.
Born on March 27, 1979 in Lahore, Pakistan, Tahir started playing domestic cricket in his teenage years for cricket clubs in Lahore and was selected for the Pakistan Under 19 and A teams. Although a useful leg-break bowler, he did not rise to the ranks of some of the spin bowling greats of Pakistan and hence had no realistic chance of first-team selection.
He started playing English county cricket but never really settled with one team, ending up in short spells with Yorkshire, Middlesex, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Hampshire. He then made the decision to move to South Africa in 2006, helped by his friend Gulam Bodi. Although the reason for this big switch was more personal than professional, it eventually turned out to be a career-defining one for Tahir. South Africa had always lacked the potency of a quality spinner and Tahir fit the bill. He, however, had to wait for five years to become eligible for selection, as per ICC regulations. He was selected for the team in 2011 for the ODI series in India but had to wait until the World Cup a month later to play his first international match, as part of a tactical strategy.
He has since played 20 tests, 74 ODIs and 31 T20Is and picked up 238 international wickets. Although he started off his international career being tagged as a Test match bowler, he soon showed his prowess in the shorter formats of the game and at present is the number one bowler in both ODIs and T20Is with staggering averages of 23.65 and 13.70 respectively. He was contracted by the Delhi Daredevils team in IPL 2014 as a replacement for the injured Nathan Coulter-Nile. He stayed on in the franchise for three years, when he was released at the end of last year’s IPL. He was not picked up in the 2017 auctions despite his ICC rankings and having been listed at a very nominal base price of $75,000. Mitchell Marsh’s injury was Tahir’s good fortune and was later snapped up by RPS as a squad replacement. He has so far played 20 IPL matches and picked up 29 wickets at an average of 21.48.
With his impressive leg-break and a well-disguised googly, this master tweaker is one of the players to watch out for in the IPL.