ILT20: Evergreen Imran Tahir shows no sign of slowing down

Leg-spinner inspires his latest team, MI Emirates, to second win over Sharjah Warriors in space of four days

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It is safe to say Imran Tahir does not require fans in the stands, a TV audience, and a handsome contract in order to turn up for a game of cricket.

But it does help.

One online biography has the Pakistan-born, ex-South Africa leg-spinner-come-global-grand-tourist listed as having played for 53 major teams. So far.

Just trying to remember them all must be taxing work, let alone putting his middle-aged limbs through more toil in the middle. And yet, judged on the way he has started the DP World International League T20, he is showing no signs of slowing.

In MI Emirates’ opening fixture at the weekend, which was against the same opposition – Sharjah Warriors – Tahir had taken three for 26 in Abu Dhabi.

But his two for 17 on Tuesday evening, after Sharjah had got off to a flier in their first match at their home ground, was even better.

Imran Tahir celebrates with teammate Zahoor Khan after taking the wicket of Sharjah Warriors' Tom Kohler-Cadmore. AFP

His victims were the Sharjah captain, Moeen Ali, and their top-scoring opener, Tom Kohler-Cadmore. Once Tahir had made his incisions, a target that looked set to be in the region of 200 was scaled down to 146.

Easy-peasy for a side who have Will Smeed, Muhammad Waseem, Andre Fletcher, Nicholas Pooran and Kieron Pollard making up their top five. MI Emirates were six-wicket winners by the end. It was not even that close.

“I have said many times before, I just have a huge respect for the game,” Tahir said between innings, after being handed the white belt which is given to the leading bowler in the ILT20.

“For my son and my family, I want to show it is never too late. I just respect the game and want to play in a good manner.”

The players could have been forgiven for struggling for motivation at times during this tournament, given the modest attendances so far.

Not that that is an affliction Tahir would ever suffer from. Two years ago, he made a mad dash from playing in the Pakistan Super League to try to play in a domestic fixture at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

It was the height of Covid-19 at the time, and he sat it in car awaiting the result of his PCR test before he could be permitted to play. The result did not come in time to feature.

And that was playing alongside amateur cricketers in a UAE-based staff cricket game.

Playing alongside some of the greats of the T20 game now, he was a vision of unbridled enthusiasm.

Each of his wickets was followed by his trademark sprint to the furthest reaches of the outfield. Notably so far in this tournament, he has also added a Cristiano Ronaldo-style leap and “Siu” to his repertoire.

What’s more, there were actually fans to entertain this time around. The tournament organisers had given away thousands of tickets ahead of this fixture, realising that a week night in Sharjah in an embryonic competition might be a tough sell.

The Warriors want to make their home ground a fortress. It is unlikely to be that exactly, but at least there were an appreciable number of yellow-clad supporters in the stands.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 6:28 PM
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