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Tue Sep 02 04:02:31 SAST 2014

Secrets of Imran Tahir

LUKE ALFRED in Dhaka | 24 March, 2011 22:090 Comments
BOWLED OVER: Born in Pakistan, Imran Tahir qualified to play for South Africa through naturalisation, and marriage to Sumayya Dildar. He is buying his wife a house to thank her for her patience while he waited for his naturalisation papers

South Africa has never before had a player like sexy spin bowler Imran Tahir.

The 30-year-old has the hopes of the country riding on his shoulders as he steps on to the pitch in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka today in the tournament's quarterfinal match against New Zealand.

Tahir, who was born in Pakistan, made it into the squad by the skin of his teeth - he received South African citizenship only on January 1.

Because he's relatively new to this country, there's a lot South African cricket fans don't know about him.

Here are 10 facts about Tahir and his love life:

  • Tahir qualified to play for South Africa the hard way - through naturalisation and marriage. His wife, Sumayya Dildar, is a make-up artist. He is buying her a house in Durban to thank her for her patience while he was waiting for his papers to come through;
  • Tahir and Dildar met at Kingsmead in Durban in 1997, when he was playing for a touring Pakistan under-19 side. "That is where she caught my eye," he said;
  • Tahir says it was love at first sight. Though he didn't have an opportunity to talk to her during the match at Kingsmead, he saw her as the Pakistanis were flying home. "When we were leaving the country I saw her at the airport and I knew I had to talk to her";
  • Though he is a Pakistani, Tahir had never played cricket in India before the World Cup. He loves the Indian fans' "passion for the game" and says his favourite stadium so far has been that in Nagpur, where South Africa scored their three-wicket victory over the World Cup co-hosts to kick-start their campaign after their early defeat by England;
  • His favourite food is a traditional Pakistani dish of mince, peas and potatoes called aloo keema muttar;
  • His musical tastes range from hip-hop to R&B. He also loves traditional Pakistani music from the state of Punjab. He's a Michael Jackson fan who cites watching movies and going back to see family and friends in his home country as favourite things when he isn't playing cricket. "Before I stopped playing because of the finger injury [he broke a thumb and missed two World Cup games] they were glued to their TV screens," he said;
  • The Pakistani leg-spinner is a cricket Gypsy. He has played for too many Pakistani teams and provinces to mention, including the Lahore Blues and Lahore Whites, the Water and Power Authority of Pakistan and Government Angels. He has played for five English counties and two South African provinces, the Titans and the Dolphins. He and Sumayya live in Durban;
  • His victory celebrations after taking a wicket have been compared to those of Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker. "Yes, I have always done that," he said of his sprint to square leg with arms stretched out wide. "It's natural to me. That is just the way that I am."
  • He has earned a deserved reputation on this tour as the Proteas' chief smoothie maker. He can make any smoothie, but his specialities are banana and apple;
  • Tahir says he knew something wasn't right when he caught England's Jonathan Trott. "I did realise something was wrong but I didn't think it was a fracture," he says of his broken thumb. The recuperation period for the injury is 10 to 14 days, which should mend him in time for South Africa's vital quarterfinal.
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