SOHAIL Tanvir finally makes his Hampshire debut this week – five years after being denied by the Pakistan cricket authorities.
Hampshire first tried to bring Tanvir to the Ageas Bowl a few months after he helped Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural Indian Premier League title.
On that occasion he was not granted permission by the Pakistan Cricket Board, and red tape has also prevented him from fulfilling stints with three other counties.
But after receiving his No Objection Certificate and visa, he intends to show that he is more than just a brilliant limited-overs bowler when he leads Hampshire’s attack in this week's LV County Championship match against Gloucestershire.
The 28 year-old wants to use his time with Hampshire to win back his Pakistan place in all formats, but particularly the Test team.
He said: “This is my first experience of county cricket so I’m very excited. I’ve played all over the world in South Africa, Australia and India but somehow, for some reason, I couldn’t make county cricket.
“I couldn’t make it in 2008 because of the NoC problem or in 2009 for Kent and Surrey because of a visa issue.
“Last year I signed with Worcestershire and couldn’t make that either, so I’m excited to be here.
“County cricket has a high standard so if you perform it means you’re in good form. We don’t have any cricket back home at the moment so county cricket is the only platform for me to perform on and get back in the [Pakistan] team.
“But the main positive as far as I’m concerned is I’m going to play four-day cricket. That’s why I signed, I want to take the T20 tag away and prove I’m good enough to play the longer version as well.”
Tanvir played his two Tests back in 2007 and is available to Hampshire after being left out of Pakistan’s Champions Trophy squad.
He admits it was hard to watch a Pakistan side including fellow left-armers Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz lose a thriller to the West Indies at The Oval shortly after his arrival at the end of last week.
But his determination to win back his Pakistan place in all formats should benefit Hampshire.
“I will give 200 per cent,” said Tanvir, who will be the fourth Pakistan international to play for Hampshire in the last decade.
“I spoke to Shahid Afridi in Karachi in April and Abdul Razzaq and Wasim Akram so I’ve got information which will definitely help me,” he continued. “All three had a good experience at Hampshire."
Tanvir already knows two of his Hampshire teammates. He was highly recommended by Neil McKenzie, with whom he won South Africa’s domestic T20 tournament earlier this year, at the end of his second season with the Lions.
Dimi Mascarenhas was part of the same Rajasthan squad in 2008.
“Neil’s the funniest guy, he’s always joking in the dressing room, but when it comes to cricket he’s very intelligent and I’m also looking forward to playing with Dimi again,” added Tanvir, who was Bowler of the Tournament at the first IPL, with 22 wickets at just 12 apiece.
“Playing under Shane Warne was the experience of my life,” he said. “I’ve learnt a lot from him and he was the one who first suggested my name to Hampshire in 2008.”
That was the year Hampshire happened upon Imran Tahir instead. Like Tahir, Tanvir’s limited experience of cricket in England came during a season in the North Staffs and South Cheshire Premier League, in his case for Haslington CC in 2006.
If he has half the impact for Hampshire as Tahir did five years ago, he will be some signing.
IF there is one thing that makes Sohail Tanvir stand out from the rest it is his unorthodox action.
Like Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, the left-arm match-winner has a flair about him that cannot be coached, having learnt his trade playing with a ‘tape-ball’ on the streets of Rawalpindi as a boy.
He appears to bowl off the wrong foot and does not use his front arm.
But his technique has proved hugely effective, helping him to unleash the devastating late swing as well as myriad other variations, including slower balls and yorkers, that make him such a tough opponent.
“It’s unorthodox, but it’s natural,” he said. “No-one can build an action like it and no coach can suggest it to a youngster, but that’s how it is.
“I get injuries because of it but it gives me a lot of benefits as well, like the ability to bowl swing because it gets my wrist in a certain position.
“But when I first saw it on TV I was surprised – seriously ! When I played street cricket my mates told me my action was quite different but I thought I was running in normally! Then I saw it on TV and realised what they meant! But I’m happy the way it is.”