Exclusive: Imran Tahir sharing his life experiences with UAE club cricketers

South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir signing an autograph for a G Force Cricket Academy youngster in Dubai. (Photo by M. Sajjad)
South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir signing an autograph for a G Force Cricket Academy youngster in Dubai. (Photo by M. Sajjad)

Dubai - It's his humble roots, Tahir says, that have helped him remain grounded


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 24 Mar 2021, 7:55 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Mar 2021, 8:09 PM

From cleaning toilets and making sacrifices for the love of his life to rubbing shoulders with some of the most iconic names in cricket, Imran Tahir’s is a story that tugs at your heartstrings.

It’s his humble roots, Tahir says, that have helped him remain grounded and he never misses out on a chance to share his life experiences with young cricketers.

The Pakistan-born South African leg-spinner has now made more friends in his cricket journey, this time in the UAE local club cricket where he has been playing to gain some match practice ahead of next month’s Indian Premier League (IPL).

The 41-year-old spinner, who has taken 293 wickets in 165 matches across formats for South Africa, also spent some time with the students at the G Force Cricket Academy in Dubai where he agreed to share some of his experiences with Khaleej Times during an interview.

You have gone through a lot to reach where you are now in your life and your career. You played first class cricket in Pakistan before moving to South Africa to get an opportunity to play international cricket. The path to that goal was difficult for you. Is it one of the reasons that you have still remained so grounded, mingling here in the UAE with local club players, sharing with them your experience?

Look, we are made by one God which is Allah. And I think there is no difference between us. I think we have created the differences, which is a sad thing in the world we are living at the moment. I have seen lots of ups and downs in my life, I know the value of everything. I have lost lots of things while arriving here, the people closest to my heart, my parents. I see myself as the guy who did not have help, I don’t want the youngsters to suffer those things. I have played 22 years of first class cricket and I have 10 years of experience in international cricket playing for South Africa. I don’t want kids to wait that long. If I see someone who needs help, and as much as I can give to that person, I try my best and I try to be as honest as I can. Especially when it comes to leg-spin, there were lots of things that I learnt very late in my career. I always wished that why I didn’t have that before. But I think that was my destiny. So what I have learnt from my religion, my parents and friends, you know, I have to remain honest and humble. There are lots of things I can tell you. You know, I used to clean toilets. That was my job at 6 in the morning. Then in the UK, I also used to be a waiter in a restaurant. That’s why I can never disrespect anyone.

We have read that you fell in love with your wife while playing for the Pakistan under 19 team in South Africa. Then you decided move to South Africa…

What happened was I knew my wife for a very long time. But then she never wanted to marry a guy from overseas because she grew up in South Africa. I knew the family, then slowly I built a relationship and that took me over eight years. They agreed that we can get married. Then I went for a trial because she wanted me to play in South Africa because she grew up there. It was difficult for her to move to another country whereas I always was a traveler, having played in so many places. I wanted to make the sacrifice because I wanted to marry her, and then she helped me a lot. Just before we got married, I got the contract. Things were a little bit tough in the first two years, but then that’s how it started. I played five years of first class cricket in South Africa. And then I finally got picked for South Africa.

It must have been a very emotional moment to finally play international cricket when you made your debut in 2011…

The love people gave me in South Africa, the support I got from Cricket South Africa and my teammates, it was something that I could never ever imagine. You know, it was a very proud moment for me to get into the South African dressing room. I never really thought I would be sitting next to Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, I mean if you look at it, this is the best line up of talent in the world and I really feel honoured and grateful to Allah that I played international cricket with some of the best players that ever played the game.

And still you have been humble enough to play club cricket in the UAE, having achieved so much at international level…

First, of all, I am very grateful to IGM (a cricket club in UAE) which gave me this opportunity. I loved my teammates and I am really grateful to Aman Maulvi who is looking after the players so well. I can tell you that the cricket standard is really good here. I have been really impressed.

The IPL is your next big tournament. Of course, you would be hoping to play in the T20 World Cup this year…

I am always hopeful. That’s my dream. Anytime South Africa needs me, I am available for them. They are looking at my performances wherever I go, and play cricket. And IPL, I am always very excited to join the Chennai Super Kings. I will try to play as many games as I can. If I get that opportunity, I need to perform to put pressure on selectors in South Africa.

Your celebration after taking a wicket, when you sprint with arms wide open and you let out a big roar, is among the most iconic celebrations of all time in cricket….

The area where I grew up in Lahore, you know, it was a very humble background. So I come from there and played international cricket finally after lots of ups and downs. I always used to think that if one day the world saw my talent, I would express my feelings to them. I think all those tough situations I was in, I think those were stored in my body. And I think they just come out spontaneously.

Finally, we have to ask you this. Who are the toughest batsmen you have bowled to?

All my South African teammates, they were the toughest to bowl. We had AB, Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Faf, JP, David Miller, Quinton de Kock. If I bowl to them, I have no fear to bowl to anyone. But if I look outside South Africa, I think Virat Kohli is the number one player. To bowl to him, you have to be at extreme top of your game. He loves the battle. I personally think he is the best player against my art (leg-spin), my art against his art. I think he is very tough to bowl to.

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