Tabraiz Shamsi: Unmasking red-ball form in Proteas’ Test bid
CAPE TOWN - Tabraiz Shamsi wore a mask on a cricket field long before it became the “new normal”.
In fact, Shamsi’s celebration – first seen during the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) – of pulling out a scarf from under his neck before covering his face with it and wheeling away was banned by the International Cricket Council.
At the time the left-arm wrist-spinner took to Twitter to defend his actions, claiming “My celebrations are just a bit of light-hearted fun and entertainment while competing against my peers under highly pressurised situations with ABSOLUTELY NO DISRESPECT MEANT to the game or the opposition but hey … it is what it is.”
It seems the 30-year-old has always been misunderstood. Just like the way he has been pigeon-holed as solely a white-ball spinner, confined to limited-overs cricket for the Proteas over the last couple of years.
While Shamsi is undoubtedly the heir to Imran Tahir’s throne in the Proteas limited-overs teams while also excelling for various franchise T20 teams around the globe, he remains a potent threat in red-ball cricket.
A fact often overlooked is that it was the 2015/16 first-class season that actually initially caught the national selectors’ attention with Shamsi claiming 57 wickets at 19.69.
It was sufficient to earn a maiden Test cap in the Proteas’ inaugural day-night encounter with Australia at Adelaide with Shamsi picked ahead of Keshav Maharaj.
Although the latter has performed splendidly since in the Test arena for the Proteas, Shamsi has seemingly been surpassed in the Test pecking order with only one further appearance in Galle in 2018.
“I think it just so happened that I was travelling with the team and South Africa hardly ever played two spinners. I didn’t get a lot of game time to play domestic cricket, so maybe out of sight, out of mind type of thing.
“But my red-ball game has never gone away. Initially when I made the (national) team it was because I took wickets in red-ball cricket. I have never doubted myself, but it was nice to take some wickets again to keep it going.”
Shamsi has enjoyed a barnstorming start to the season. After two matches in the 4-Day Domestic Series, he has already claimed 15 wickets, including a record-breaking 8/32 against the Warriors at St George’s Park last week.
Shamsi’s haul in Port Elizabeth eclipsed Dale Steyn’s 12-year mark as the best ever figures by a Titans bowler.
“It’s obviously an amazing feeling to get my career best figures, but I’m actually more happy about the runs I made with the bat to be honest,” said Shamsi, who also contributed 36 lower down the order.
“It was a good wicket for the spinners. It was on the slower side, maybe because it’s so early in the season. To be able to take eight wickets this week was a nice feeling, but maybe I was a bit fortunate to get the wickets.”
Proteas coach Mark Boucher and new national convener of selectors Victor Mpitsang will certainly be keeping a close watch on Shamsi going forward, although he will need to switch his
Besides facing Eoin Morgan’s world champions, there will be the further challenge of entering a bio-secure environment for the first time. Shamsi was forced to give the CPL a miss this season due to not being able to travel owing to Covid-19 and will – like most of the Proteas bar the players returning from the IPL – be bio-bubble rookies.
“I think it might take some time getting adjusted to the new, you know, the way of playing cricket and being locked up in hotel rooms.
“People speak a lot about the mental aspect of the game. But for me personally, it’s more how you manage people while in the bubble. That’s what I’m picking up, speaking to other players that have played in the bubble. It’s more so of how much you can make it like home for the players – even the management as well.
“So I think that’s going to be important. Let’s try and make it as comfortable as possible. And I think that they will play a big part, obviously. Everyone has families, and I’m not sure if we will be allowed to have our families with us or not. But even so, you know, it’s quite different. So I think from a mental point of view to be something that we’ve never experienced.”