Smith: ‘Imran is our greatest asset in ODI cricket’

“He’s performed so consistently, and is undoubtedly now the best short form spinner in the world”

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has lauded Imran Tahir, branding him as the “best short form spinner in the world”.

Smith’s glowing praise about Tahir comes after the 38-year-old was named Man of the Match in South Africa’s Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka on Saturday, where he finished with figures of 4-27 off 8.3 overs and lead his side to a 96-run win.

Tahir speared through Sri Lanka’s middle order after they made a blistering start to their innings, getting rid of Chamara Kapugedara, stand-in captain Upul Tharanga, who was Sri Lanka’s highest scorer with 57 runs, Asela Gunaratne and Nuwan Pradeep.

“Imran is our greatest asset in ODI cricket,” Smith was quoted as saying by IOL. “He’s performed so consistently, and is undoubtedly now the best short form spinner in the world.

“Against Sri Lanka, he bowled skilfully to both right and left handers and he bowls so few bad balls. For AB, that means he can often afford an extra fielder in the inner circle, enabling the team to create more pressure by preventing singles.”

While the Proteas are more than likely to keep Tahir in their squad for the remainder of the tournament, Smith admitted he found it strange that other teams are shying away from spin and choosing to bolster their pace attack instead.

This was the case with England and Australia as the former left Adil Rashid out of their side for their clash with Bangladesh last Thursday. Australia, meanwhile, snubbed leg-spinner Adam Zampa and only had the part-time off-spin of Glenn Maxwell in their game against New Zealand.

“It appears to be a theme both in this tournament and in world cricket generally, however, that captains are becoming increasingly wary of picking their spinners for one-day cricket,” Smith said. “We saw Eoin Morgan choose to leave Adil Rashid out of the side, having played him for a long period of time.

“Steve Smith also seems reluctant to pick Adam Zampa, and I think there’s an issue with captains’ understanding of how to allow spinners to play an important role and bring them in to the one-day game.”

Meanwhile, Smith also lavished praise on opener Hashim Amla and batsman Faf du Plesiss for their contributions during the match against Sri Lanka.

Amla made history in the game with his knock of 103 as he became the fastest player to score 25 ODI centuries and the first South African to achieve the feat as well.

As for Du Plessis, he continued his stellar run of form with the bat by scoring 75 off 70 balls, which included six boundaries.

“Faf is the key cog in the South African batting line up,” Smith added. “The way he goes about his game with such intent gives the innings momentum, and I thought he batted beautifully in game one.

“Both he and Hash did well to assess the conditions, in that upping the rate on that surface wasn’t particularly easy. What Faf did fantastically was to take scoring pressure of Hashim and just allow him to bat.”

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