Imran Tahir is a quintessential Paulo Coelho protagonist. The 31-year-old leg spinner was born and brought up in Lahore, played much of his early cricket in England, found his love in South Africa, and is now on the brink of realizing his childhood dream - playing international cricket.
"I will put it all down to luck. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. I had always dreamt of playing for Pakistan when I was growing up. But the only country I want to play for now is South Africa. It will be the happiest day of my life as and when I play for my new country," said Tahir.
Even though it's his bowling that is making people sit up and take notice, the story of his getting married to a South African girl Sumayya Dildar is no less interesting. He met her by chance in 1998 when he played in the under-19 World Cup in South Africa. They, however, kept in touch through phone and internet until they got married in 2006.
"He was just a friend and I never thought I would marry him because I don't like Pakistan. I had no intention of marrying a Pakistani man even if he were the last man on Earth. When he called me up in 2006 from England that he wanted to come here and marry me, I told him he stood no chance. However, he landed here and in just the next few weeks I fell in love with him. We got married within six weeks of his arrival."
Before getting married, Sumayya extracted a promise he would not return to Pakistan and play cricket in South Africa. "I had no future in Pakistan. I didn't get opportunity at a right time, and I had no desire left to return. So staying back and playing here was an easy decision for me" said Tahir. As luck would have it, Richard Pybus, a reputed South Africa coach who briefly coached Pakistan, was impressed with his bowling and offered him a contract with Titans. "I played for them for two years and was their best bowler. Then I moved to Dolphins (in Durban) and have been doing quite well," said Tahir.