Johannesburg: Imran Tahir’s hopes of playing for South Africa at the cricket World Cup were boosted on Monday when the Pakistan-born legspinner was added to a provisional squad for next month’s tournament.
Cricket South Africa said the 31-year-old Tahir, a former Pakistan A international, has replaced batsman Jonathan Vandiar in its 30-man preliminary squad for the February 19-April 2 event in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – where spin bowling on slow, turning wickets is likely to be crucial to teams’ hopes.
CSA said Vandiar had withdrawn “gracefully” from the 30-man squad to allow Tahir, an impressive performer in South African domestic cricket this season, to take his place.
“We feel that we need to widen our bowling options,” said CSA selection convener Andrew Hudson. “I have discussed the matter with Jonathan and I would like to express my gratitude to him ... He knows he is very much part of our plans going forward.”
Tahir was granted South African citizenship last month and is now eligible to play for his new country after meeting International Cricket Council and South African government criteria.
He had been picked in South Africa’s Test squad in January 2010, only for CSA to withdraw him after it was discovered he was not yet eligible.
Tahir is married to a South African and plays for the Durban-based Dolphins team, where he has taken a competition-leading 42 wickets in just five matches I n the four-day SuperSport Series. He had 15 wickets in South Africa’s 40-over tournament at an average of just 17.
He has also played for Hampshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire in England.
The attacking legspinner had already been included in South Africa’s squad for the upcoming five-match one-day series against India and celebrated his call-up with 12 wickets in a man of the match performance for the Dolphins over the weekend.
Tahir could make his South Africa debut on Wednesday in the first one-dayer against India at Kingsmead in Durban – his home ground.
South Africa has never won the World Cup and has regularly underperformed at cricket’s showpiece limited-overs tournament.