Imran Tahir has been ascended as the world's best bowler in limited-overs cricket © Getty Images
Imran Tahir has been ascended as the world’s best bowler in limited-overs cricket © Getty Images

From one country to another, from one team to the other, and finally at the top of the world: Imran Tahir’s journey in cricket and the life away from it has been quite eventful. A Lahore-born cricketer who plays international cricket for South Africa, Tahir’s ascension to the top spot among the best bowlers in international cricket is the end product of hard work mixed with skills and belief. Tahir has represented Pakistan in age group cricket and also its A side, and played domestic cricket in Pakistan for over a decade. ALSO READ - Imran Tahir heralded as No. 1 ODI bowler

Most importantly, Tahir becoming world No. 1 bowler in ODIs and T20Is in an increasingly batsmen-dominated game holds hope for those who have nothing to start with, and this will remain one of the most interesting cricket tales for some time. In a team that has traditionally been blessed with some of the world’s finest fast bowlers, Tahir has established himself as the best bowler for South Africa in limited-overs cricket, which is a victory in itself. No more the South Africans need a specialist bowler who can hold things together in the middle overs even though they need a few at the top, thanks to Tahir’s control and guile which makes him unplayable in the formats where batsmen seldom treat the bowlers with respect. Tahir’s numbers are a proof of his rise. ALSO READ – Is Imran Tahir the best spinner South Africa has ever produced?

Tahir’s emergence as the best ODI and T20I bowler is a result of steady progress made over a past few years. In the last three years, Tahir’s average has remained under 26, which has made a significant contribution in not only his growth as a bowler but also in team’s cause in ODI cricket. In 2015, he claimed 37 wickets in 22 games at 25.18 with an economy under 5. The next year saw Tahir’s economy clocking slightly above 5, but the average came down as well. Tahir claimed 27 wickets in a mere 15 matches, with his best performance coming against West Indies at Basseterre.

In the triangular series in the Caribbean, Sunil Narine had hounded South Africa earlier in the tournament. Tahir, on this occasion, returned the favour with his best spell in ODI cricket of 9-0-45-7.

Tahir has played 5 ODIs so far in the year 2017, and with 10 wickets at 20.60, he has already contributed heavily in South Africa’s domination which has gone unchallenged in their home conditions.

The numbers in T20Is are more impressive than in ODIs; he claimed 16 wickets in a mere 9 matches in 2016 at 14.68 to emerge as one of the best in business. Even in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Tahir’s records are outstanding. In IPL 2015, he claimed 15 wickets in a mere 10 matches at 20.93, and even though he played a mere 4 matches in the 2016 edition, his 5 wickets were enough to highlight that Tahir should have been played more.

It is not just his numbers that make Tahir the best; his control over the white ball, the variations between the stock deliveries to the googlies and his leg-breaks are far more accurate than what they were earlier. At times he has looked unplayable; for it is difficult for the batsmen to hit against the lines only to maintain the scoring rate. The batsmen from Australia and Sri Lanka will vouch for that.

Aggression is a trait usually associated with the fast bowlers, but Tahir, soon to turn 38, is not the ones to back down. He was fined and handed with two demerit points for being involved in an episode with David Warner. That, certainly, can be taken as a one-off instance for the man who has no other passion than to take wickets for South Africa, and celebrate them in a manner only he can.

“When I started cricket I never thought I’d be No. 1 bowler, it’s all the hard work I’ve done and I’m very excited,” Tahir was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo. “There are a lot of good players in world cricket and coming top of that is a really good achievement and I’m really grateful.

While Tahir basks in the glory of becoming the world No. 1 bowler, there remains the memory of 0 for 260 in Australia in a format where he has failed to make a mark. But, at a time when he remains far off from South Africa’s plans in red-ball cricket, he is equally imposing in limited-overs cricket at an age when most of the others are gone.

Delhi Daredevils (DD) have released the premier bowler and come the IPL 2017 auction next week, he will be one of the bowlers who will be sought out for. For now, his job is to continue wreaking havocs in opposition camps. The target now shifts to New Zealand.