Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has paid tribute to retiring leg-spinner Imran Tahir for the way he has transmitted his passion to his team-mates and inspired youngsters in South Africa.
Tahir played his final ODI for South Africa at the weekend as they ended a terrible World Cup campaign with a morale-boosting win over Australia at Old Trafford, signing off a stellar career with the wicket of captain Aaron Finch.
The 40-year-old has finished his career with 173 wickets in 107 ODIs at an average of 24.83, with an economy rate of 4.65.
But Du Plessis said Tahir’s value extended way beyond the pure numbers.
“I have so much respect for Immy, he started at the Titans, straight out of Lahore, and I’ve played a long time with him, in the IPL as well. He just has such incredible passion and love for the game, and he really commits to whatever team he is playing for. He just brings the same energy wherever he plays. And he hands down has the best celebrations ever, I hope people remember him for that.
“But he also needs to be remembered for how much he has inspired kids and how much he has done for this team. He’s a fantastic cricketer, it’s really special what he brings to the field and he is a very caring person. We must really push for him to still play in the T20 World Cup, even if it means releasing him from duties until next year, we must just make sure we get him back for that,” Du Plessis said at Old Trafford.
Du Plessis said that with that tournament just over a year away, it would not make sense for there to be a wholesale cleanout of the Proteas team, despite the trauma of this ODI World Cup. He added, however, that he was willing to groom whoever his successor as captain will be.
“In a perfect world you would like to start introducing new players for the World Cup in four years time, but the T20 World Cup is only in a years time, so we shouldn’t be looking past that. I think there’s still space for an in-between approach. You’re looking at who will play in four years time but you still need some experience around, the younger guys then learn much quicker.
“Whoever is the next captain, I believe there is value in him playing with me for the next year or so. One could probably change the captain and coach after the T20 World Cup, which leaves two-to-three years before the 50-over World Cup. But I’m saying all this without having had the important conversations with anyone back home,” Du Plessis said.