Tahir shares his spin tips

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He wants to share the knowledge he’s gained from the best part of two decades in the game, and if in doing so he loses his spot in the national side, then so be it.

South Africa have been experimenting with spinning options across the formats in the last two years. Tahir was never able to nail down a spot in the Test team and has seen off-break bowlers Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer go past him in the pecking order for the five-day format.

In the shorter format of the game, though, Tahir still reigns as the Proteas’ premier spinner.

That much was made clear again last Wednesday when not only did he slow down New Zealand’s scoring at a critical time in their run chase in the first One-Day International, he also picked up the crucial wickets of Kane Williamson and Colin Munro.

As valuable as he is to the national side – he was described by Gary Kirsten ahead of the last World Cup as being the team’s most important – it would be remiss of the selectors not to look at other players likely to replace Tahir.

In the short-term, Tahir will go to India next year for the World T20 tournament as the side’s leading spinner. But there is an internal competition between Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie over who will play as Tahir’s back-up – or even alongside him should conditions warrant in that tournament.

Naturally, given they’re both practitioners of the same craft, Tahir has spent a lot of time with fellow leg-spinner Leie recently.

They first came into contact with each other when Tahir was at the Highveld Lions a few seasons back.

Since then, Leie, who is not part of the one-day squad facing New Zealand, has developed into a fine limited-overs bowler and after an excellent season in last summer’s RamSlam T20, was roped into the team in Bangladesh recently.

“It was really good just chatting to him,” said Tahir.

“Eddies’ not new in the system, he’s played a lot of domestic cricket in the last few years. He’s a talented guy and it’s nice he got an opportunity (to play international cricket) – I wish I had that at his age. He’s a good character and very excited.”

That excitement is illustrated in the manner in which Leie celebrates taking a wicket. Like Tahir, it’s a crazy, arm-waving, sprinting ritual that only stops when they get close to the boundary.

Tahir has sought advice about bowling leg-spin from various sources, including the great Pakistani Abdul Qadir, who is something of a mentor, and Australian legend Shane Warne.

Now he is passing on tips to Leie and despite the possibility that Leie may take his spot, Tahir is sharing his “secrets”. “Actually, yes, I did (tell him some secrets). What I’ve done already (in my career) no one can take away from me and I just want to pass on what I know. I hope if I do that he remembers me in a good way.”

Often lost among all the mickey-taking over his vibrant wicket celebrations is the fact that Tahir is a very crafty operator whose confidence in his own ability is such that AB de Villiers just leaves him to set fields and come up with strategies for opposing batsmen. That is one area of Leie’s game Tahir reckons needs improving.

“He’s got all the variation but he needs to learn about the game from a mental point of view.”

That, though, will hopefully come with more game time and experience, but nice as he is, Tahir doesn’t want to give up his spot in the Proteas set-up just yet. “It’s good for the youngster, very good for the future of South African cricket, and for me it’s a challenge too, but I don’t want to lose my spot,” he smiled.

Today’s second ODI in Potchefstroom starts at 10am.

– The Sunday Independent

Imran Tahir has no secrets, not from teammates or those likely to take his place in the SA side.

Original source: Tahir shares his spin tips

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