South Africa's search for a quality spinner could end next year, when legspinner Imran Tahir, who was born in Lahore, qualifies to play for the country. Tahir, married to a South African woman, will be available to play for South Africa on April 1, 2009, and the bowler is eager to play at the "highest level".
"South Africa is now my country," Tahir said. "I'll be available for South Africa on April 1." That date will be exactly fours years since Tahir played for Pakistan A. If South Africa's selectors decide to pick Tahir, who plays for the Titans, he could be in line for his debut during the home ODI series against Australia, which starts on April 3.
"My biggest ambition, ever since I was a boy in Pakistan, has been to play cricket at the highest level. If I can do so for South Africa, I'll give everything. I am a South African now and this is where my loyalty lies."
Tahir, 29, has taken 291 first-class wickets at an average of 25.07 and 74 List A scalps at 21.74. In the 2007-08 season, he took 31 wickets in six first-class games for the Titans and 14 in eight one-dayers at an average of 16.50 and economy-rate of 4.21. He joined Hampshire for the 2008 county season and was one of the better overseas signings: in seven Championship matches, he took 44 wickets at 16.68.
"I have learnt that patience is important; patience when you bowl and also in how you handle life," he said. "I enjoy a challenge and it will be a huge challenge to try to get into my new country's team. I realise, therefore, that much attention will be focused on me when I play for the Titans in the domestic season. I will have to perform. But I believe in my ability. That's why I don't back away from any challenge.
"I still have a number of years of good cricket in me. The support I receive from my family and friends also helps a lot. I believe one should work hard to get what you want. After I was selected for Pakistan's Under-19 team, I bowled on my own for three hours a day. That's where my accuracy comes from."