Cape Town - The Proteas begin their quest for T20 World Cup glory on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates. Their challenge will be spearheaded by their World No1 T20 bowler Tabraiz Shamsi.
In an exclusive interview with Independent Media, Shamsi speaks to us from the bio-bubble in the UAE about South Africa’s spinning revolution and how this inexperienced Proteas team wants to re-write the record books.
Zaahier Adams: Do you ever wake up in the morning and just pinch yourself you are the No1 T20 bowler in the world?
Tabraiz Shamsi: “The guys around me make my job easier to be honest. I know I have a certain role to play. I have a job to do in the team. But the other guys are brilliant as well. You don’t just rock up and do well. You need the help of other guys around you.”
ZA: How exciting is it to be part of a generation of spinners that are actually appreciated in SA?
TS: “It's amazing! The coaches are picking the team according to what they see in front of them and not just what we’ve seen in the past, not what the mould of a South African team should be. People ask me ... what’s changed? How have you improved so much?
“I don't think I've improved that much. I’m just able to showcase what I can do now in the last year. It’s the first time – I mean I’m no statistician – but from memory I think it probably took me three years into my international career to actually play two games in a row for South Africa. No player can show what he can do if he’s playing one game now and then playing another after two months and then playing the next game after three months. So yeah, I think that’s nice to see that now. We've got the spin bowlers who have the skill and they’ve been backed.”
ZA: Do you feel that South African captains and coaches trust spinners more now or have the spinners just got better?
TS: “It’s hard to say because the other spinners weren’t allowed to show what they can do. We’ve had brilliant spinners in the past. I’m sure all the guys that were in and around the team were very good players. But we will never know.
“The only time you can see what a person can do is if he’s given an opportunity to showcase what he can do. I think that’s the same case for me as well. It’s only during this past year that I managed to play more than two games in a row.”
ZA: Being the No 1 bowler in T20 cricket, do the younger spinners look up to you and follow your lead?
TS: “We all try and help each other out. It’s the same when Imran Tahir was around. I’ll ask for some advice. I’ll give out a lot of advice as well where I feel. For me now it’s about helping the other guys as well as making sure we come up with the right tactics.
“I think it’s a two-way street with all of us, We are really open to listen to each other and take advice and give advice. We’ve got a good thing going within our spin group. And we know each other for years, so there’s no sense of feeling shy to ask for advice or to give advice as well.”
ZA: You have always spoken very highly of Imran Tahir. How do you feel about him being left out and would you have liked to bowl one last time with him in Dubai?
TS: “I actually don’t know what to say about that because I’m not somebody who gets involved in those kinds of chats and I’m not really sure what happened.”
ZA: But you would like to bowl with him though?
TS: “Well, there are always opportunities around the world.” (Laughs)
ZA: That’s the best googly you have bowled all summer …
TS: (Laughs) “We never know where the road might take us.”
ZA: Having been in the UAE for the IPL, what can we expect from the surfaces?
TS: “I don't know if they’ve been keeping certain pitches fresh for the World Cup, but they are on the slower side. It will be a challenge for the batters.”
ZA: You’ve been quite vocal about the fact that this Proteas team is not as “rubbish” as people think. Why did you feel the need to say that?
TS: “I think it’s because we don’t have as many household names that we’ve had in past Proteas teams that people have a certain perception. But that’s only because the guys haven’t played as much to become household names. It doesn’t mean the skills aren’t there.
“It doesn’t mean the guys are not good. But like any job in life, whatever you’re doing, the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel, the more you can actually express what you want to do. That’s all it is.”
ZA: It hasn’t turned too badly though, considering this group has won three series in a row now heading to the World Cup?
TS: “Yes, we have equalled the number of T20 wins in a row for any South African team.
“Whatever the teams were playing in the past, this current group of players has actually equalled that record and I’m pretty confident and I hope that we’re going to go and break that record when we play our first game against Australia and the World Cup. We are basically on a record streak that no other Proteas team has enjoyed before.”
ZA: The Proteas’ first game is against the Australians. Is everything geared towards that opening game on Saturday?
TS: “When we play against Australia nobody needs to be told anything. Everyone knows what they have to do. In my personal experience I don't think we’ve ever played a game against Australia where we haven't turned up.
“Even when we were just starting out as a fresh team, we beat them 3-0 at home in the ODIs. The T20s were close, we lost 2-1, but it could have been 3-0 either way. I think with Australia we don’t need to motivate guys. I think everybody will be up for that.”
ZA: If you had to choose, which Marvel superhero would you be?
TS: “I’m going sound a bit dumb … I don't even know if Superman is a Marvel character, but I have been fascinated with Superman for a long time. Being able to fly and then travel quickly is something that I would enjoy.”
ZA: What's it like to bowl against the supermen of the West Indies such as Andre Russell and Chris Gayle?
TS: It’s challenging, the power that they possess. But for me, it sort of pumps me up. I’ve been somebody that’s always wanted to take the big wickets. I think it brings the best out of me.”
ZA: What is your message to the people back home? What can they expect from this Proteas team at the World Cup?
TS: “I’d just like to tell them and remind them that this is a team that has been locked up in a hotel room for six or seven days just so we can go out there and try our best and bring some happiness to the people back home. We’ve been doing a lot of sweating for this team, for the people back home, and we’re going to definitely try and make everyone proud.”