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Sohail Tanvir credits Darren Sammy for his success

Sohail Tanvir credits Darren Sammy for his success

"Sammy took a chance and I delivered. It "Sammy took a chance and I delivered. It was good captaincy," said Tanvir as he credited Sammy for turning him into an allrounder.good captaincy," said Tanvir as he credited =Sammy for turning him int

His team, St Lucia Zouks, finished fifth - out of six - in the Caribbean Premier League last year, but for Pakistan's Sohail Tanvir, it was a memorable experience. It was there that he became an allrounder of some standing, something that wasn't really on the cards even though he had been talked up as a bowler who could bat when he started his career and, to be fair, he did put in the occasional impressive batting performance along the way.

For a strike bowler, a first-class average of 29.65 suggests some ability with the willow. But it was potential that had largely gone untapped in over a decade of top-drawer cricket. Darren Sammy, Tanvir says, changed everything.

Six games had gone by for the Zouks, they had lost all of them, but despite poor outings for most of the men at the top of the batting order, Tanvir, batting at No. 6 or No. 7, put in a quick 32 against Guyana Amazon Warriors, then another rapid 38 not out against Barbados Tridents, and finally an unbeaten 50 in 19 balls against the Tridents again.

Sammy had seen enough, and wanted his bowler to bat more. Tanvir went up the order step by step for the remainder of the Zouks' miserable campaign and, by the end of it, finished just behind Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles among the team's run-getters. His average of 37.80 was the best among the Zouks. He did score most of his runs when in the lower order, but that's a small quibble, and that he was his team's best bowler as well was, anyway, beyond doubt.

For 2015 then, the new St Kitts and Nevis Patriots franchise didn't need to think much before pencilling Tanvir in.

"I would give credit to Darren Sammy. He spoke to me, and he said that I was striking the ball well and I was in form, and that he wanted to utilise me higher up the order," says Tanvir to Wisden India. "So I think allrounders can be made. If I talk about India, look at Irfan Pathan. I believe he was made into an allrounder when he was moved to No. 3. The management and the captain can make allrounders. Sammy made me bat and luckily I got runs and the stats are in front of you. So I clearly had the batting ability. At that level, the management should be able to get the best out of a player. Sammy took a chance and I delivered. It was good captaincy."

It was back in 2008, in the first edition of the Indian Premier League, that Tanvir really broke through. He had played both his Tests by then and had made his short-format debuts, but the 22 wickets that put him top of the wicket-takers' pile and played such a big role in Rajasthan Royals' victory run made him an overnight star.

With this conversation taking place at the time of the 2015 edition of the IPL, and Tanvir waiting to honour his contract with Somerset (T20s only) before leaving for the CPL, talk of the absence of Pakistani players from the Indian Twenty20 league naturally came up.

"If Pakistani players had played in the IPL, we would have performed well," he suggests. "It is such a big platform for us too. Everyone saw me for the first time in the IPL in 2008. It's a big international tournament with a worldwide audience, so the exposure is great."

"If you saw the 2008 IPL, we (Pakistani players) were very liked, fans enjoyed watching us play. Wherever I went ... I never felt there was any ill will towards us. I had a good time everywhere I went. I don't think cricketers are liked and appreciated anywhere as much as they are in India. People in India appreciate cricket. There are no boundaries. I don't think fans care which country you are from.

"I think if Pakistani players play the IPL, it will be good for the IPL as well. It will be good for the viewership too. If (Shahid) Afridi plays the IPL, you can imagine how exciting it would be."

Afridi, interestingly, is a part of the Patriots at the CPL as well, and Tanvir was thrilled at the prospect of sharing the dressing room with him. "We have spoken about the CPL and he is very excited about it, like I am. I am very excited to play with Shahid bhai. That is one of my biggest attractions this year. We all know what a big player Shahid bhai is. It will be a big advantage for St Kitts and Nevis to have him in their side. Having him in the dressing room would be a big motivation for me to do well too."

That whippy, high-arm delivery, off the wrong foot at that, and prodigious movement have made Tanvir a bowler batsmen around the world find difficult to pick, even after all these years, and he seems to do well irrespective of the conditions he plays in. "For a bowler to be successful in Twenty20s, one has to be clever, assess the batsmen and the conditions well. Of course, one must have variations. I am not express pace, but I do have a few variations, which help me in the death overs ... my slower deliveries and yorkers and movement both ways. Batsmen have trouble picking me, whether I bowl quicker ones or slower ones. I think I have been successful in short formats because I have the variations to keep the batsmen guessing," he explains.

But he is at a bit of a loss when it comes to trying to explain his lack of appearances for the Pakistan national team. Just two Tests, against India in 2007, and 62 One-Day Internationals spread over eight-nine years suggest Pakistan have moved beyond him even if domestic T20 league franchises haven't. Yes, he does play T20 Internationals for Pakistan, but that's about it.

"Before the (2015) World Cup, I did play the (ODI) series ... unfortunately I couldn't play the World Cup. I suppose you could say I have become a short-format player. Yes, that's true," he says, before adding that he was desperate to be a part of the action when international cricket returns to Pakistan in the limited-overs series against Zimbabwe later this month: "I am hoping, inshallah, that I would be able to play against Zimbabwe when they come to play in Pakistan. I am looking forward to it.

"The ambition is always to play more and more for Pakistan. Pakistan is always the No. 1 priority. I am 30. If my fitness is fine, I will keep trying to play for Pakistan. All the contracts to play for other teams, it's always the second option. If I am free then I can play all around the world. But, inshallah, I'll get to play for Pakistan again. I am playing T20s. I hope I can make a comeback in ODIs too."

The last time he turned out in Pakistan's colours was against Bangladesh in the one-off T20I on April 24. Pakistan had been whitewashed in the preceding three-ODI series and lost the T20I as well, with Tanvir proving economical but not picking up the wickets his team needed him to. That series result was, in many ways, a watershed event, with Bangladesh looking like they meant business after all the years of languishing in the outer reaches of the international game.

"All of us have to realise that Bangladesh have improved as a team. If you look at the World Cup, which was played in Australia and New Zealand, they did well. If you go back a little more, they did well at the Asia Cup. They gave a tough time to the other teams. So nothing has happened overnight. They have been improving," points out Tanvir. "And if you talk about Pakistan, it was a new team. When a new team is built, these things happen. None of us expected a whitewash, but we did expect neck-and-neck games. But credit to Bangladesh for playing above expectations."

Back to the third edition of the CPL, where he will be plying his trade starting June 20, Tanvir is aware that he is one of the stars in his team and a lot of what his team achieves would depend on him. "Expectations from me have gone up because I delivered last time. St Kitts obviously expect me to do even better. That would be my goal as well. And that's what I would want to do."