If Derbyshire Cricket fans were waiting for a statement of intent from its new coaching set up, then they haven’t had to wait long, as Tahir it is – apologies for the pun – with news this week of South African leg spinner Imran Tahir signing for the club across all formats for the 2017 season, international commitments allowing.
Tahir is expected to join up with the club in June following the Champions Trophy, or earlier if he is not selected for the squad for the competition held in England early in the Summer. South Africa are also playing in England, later in the season, and Derbyshire will be hoping he is not selected, as a player of Tahir’s undoubted quality and experience will be a valuable asset in their quest to improve on 2016’s showing, and possibly push for promotion.
Tahir has a wealth of experience both, internationally and in our domestic county game. In fact, when he plays his first game for the club will equal another former Derbyshire player’s record of playing for six counties in their career, in this case Middlesex, Yorkshire, Warwickshire, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire as well as Derbyshire.
This wealth of experience and knowledge of the county game will be vital for Derbyshire as they push to take twenty wickets, something which they failed to do at any point in the 2016 championship season. Tahir has also taken over 200 international wickets and is the number one ranked bowler in T20I cricket. His flight, guile and wonderfully disguised googly mean batsmen in Division two of the championship, and the North Group of the Natwest T20 Blast, may well have to use their heads.
Bringing in the world’s number one T20I bowler is no doubt part of a larger plan. Along with the recent signing of John Wright as specialist T20 coach, the signing suggests the club is eager to improve in the shortest format of the game.
Wright, who will well know the effect Tahir can have in T20 cricket while working in the IPL, will have been key to this signing. When Wright was announced as T20 coach this was just the kind of signing that the supporters and other players were hoping for, following the promises made by the club after a disappointing 2016.
No one can argue the new set up is not following through on the club’s promises. Derbyshire promised to bring in proven experienced match winners and with the signing of Tahir they have done this, something which Chairman Chris Grant was keen to point out when announcing the signing saying: “At the end of the season, we committed to investing in top quality players to improve the squad and ensure we could compete more strongly in 2017.
“This signing clearly demonstrates that we are delivering on that commitment and we look forward to welcoming Imran to Derbyshire.”
New Director of Cricket Kim Barnett also added “We are keen to strengthen our squad with experienced match winners who will also help our talented youngsters.
“With his vast international and domestic experience here in England, Imran fits the bill perfectly. He is one of the best leg spinners in the world and we’re very excited to have him on board.
Not only will Imran bring an added dimension to our bowling line up. His influence on the team and players, such as Matt Critchley, will be immense.”
The last comment from Barnett is intriguing. Derbyshire have at their disposal a battery of young and promising bowlers, Critchley especially who has been involved with the England set up and recently worked with leg spinning legend Shane Warne. The level of forward thinking shown by the club in bringing in a player who can also help develop one of their own young players, whilst also being a match winning performer, should be congratulated.
Tahir could also be around for longer than the 2017 season, if things go well for both parties. Barnett added: “Whilst our initial plans are very much focused on next summer, we are both going into this with an open-mind and a view to looking at long term options.”
This clearly leaves the door open for Tahir to extend his stay if they both wish.
Derbyshire will be hoping that Tahir’s world renowned enthusiasm for the game – you only have to watch his wicket celebrations to see this is true – will come in to lift the club and rub off on the other players.
Tahir sounds excited to come to the club saying: “I love playing cricket in England and I’m looking forward to playing a senior role at Derbyshire.
“I’ve learned a lot over the years and if I can pass my knowledge on to youngsters and help win matches, then it’s a great option for me.”
Whatever happens next season, it’s a bold statement of intent to bring in Tahir who is a proven match winner and massively experienced, someone who can win them matches now and in the future and hopefully develop the club’s young players as well.
If he can do this, then I am sure it will not be a case of Tahir today and gone tomorrow.