On the Front Foot: Losing Tahir leaves Pakistan tearing their hair out

There seems to be little more mileage in questioning the right of players to play for a country other than that of their birth.

England, of course, has provided a home to myriad so-called foreigners for more than a hundred years, of whom Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott – lining up against their homeland today – and Eoin Morgan, who escaped the humiliation against his native Ireland because of a broken finger, are but the most recent examples.

All countries have had to embrace the idea of crossing borders and the latest is South Africa itself. Imran Tahir, born in Pakistan, qualified on the eve of the tournament and made his full international debut in the World Cup (this is a rare but not singular achievement – remember that in 1992 South Africa had just been readmitted to international cricket and six players made their first appearances in that year's tournament).

In the case of Tahir, South Africa's gain is Pakistan's loss. Somehow, the leg-spinner dropped off the selectors' radar and there are now recriminations in the country. The former Pakistan paceman Mohammad Wasim wrote on the website Pakpassion.net yesterday that Imran had upset people at home.

"These ranged from trivial reasons such as how some would dislike his hair colour and style, to the way he would celebrate after taking wickets. On more serious matters, certain people had problems with his apparent over-confidence in his cricket and how he'd talk to people."

Nothing like that model of propriety, the present one-day captain, Shahid Afridi, then. Asked about the transfer of allegiances yesterday (Tahir played for Pakistan Under-23s, as Trott played for South Africa Under-19s) the chief executive of the ICC, Haroon Lorgat, appeared to bury the issue. "It's up to the individual who he wishes to play for, where he believes his best opportunity lies," he said. "It is not an issue at the moment that is of major concern."

Perhaps, but it seems somehow to undermine the whole ethos of international cricket involving nation versus nation and which might be producing the better cricketers and team at any time. Lorgat also indicated yesterday that cricket's four-year cycle will now contain two World T20s (the next in Sri Lanka next year), a World Cup and a World Test Championship.

Sounds ideal, but it is not yet a done deal, since countries such as England think they can make more by running their own tours.

Smith still set to stand down

After eight years as captain of South Africa, Graeme Smith is giving up the one-day element of the job after this tournament.

Should South Africa reach the final he will have led them 152 times, his country's longest-serving leader. It is being suggested that Smith might be asked to stay on but he said yesterday: "It was a personal decision and I've been in the job for eight years, which is more than most other captains tend to last these days. I'm at peace with it now and I'm very focused on the World Cup – that's my priority."

O'Brien simply the best

Not the last word, not by a long chalk, on Kevin O'Brien's stupendous innings of 113 against England. It was easily the fastest century scoring rate in World Cup history, 179.37, overhauling Matthew Hayden's 149.53 (101 from 68 balls for Australia against South Africa in 2007) and Viv Richards's 145.97 (181 for West Indies against Sri Lanka in 1987).

The sort of thing to remember forever.


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