It is to Tabraiz Shamsi’s significant misfortune that he has emerged at a time when South Africa are unusually well served with spin bowling options.
Keshav Maharaj has taken his opportunity to nail down the slow bowler’s berth in Test cricket and there’s no shifting Imran Tahir from his place in the white-ball XIs.
More often than not since readmission in 1991, South Africa have had to pick the best of a mediocre bunch of spinners for the longer format and make do with even less impressive bowlers in the shorter stuff. That’s how it should be in a country where the quicks rule, aided and abetted by the conditions and, understandably, the attitudes of captains and coaches.
So it is to Shamsi’s considerable credit that he has been able to make himself seen and heard not only despite all that but also because he bowls the most esoteric brand of spin.
He has earned his attention by bowling aggressively as often as possible, conditions and match situation allowing. Not for Shamsi the wallflower role of keeping one end quiet while someone else comes up roses at the other. His array bristles with an impressive range of variations, most importantly a googly that jags sharply away from right-handers. He bowls with a magnetic intensity that only adds to the challenge of facing him, and also with humour — which can be equally dangerous for opponents.
Those qualities came to the attention of a wider audience when Royal Challengers Bangalore signed Shamsi to replace the injured Samuel Badree in the 2016 Indian Premier League — months before he played for South Africa for the first time.
Given Tahir’s pre-eminence in South Africa’s gameplan, and considering there wouldn’t seem to be many opportunities to deploy two spinners at a World Cup in England, it’s difficult to see how Shamsi will get a game at the tournament.
But, if he does, spectators are guaranteed something worth watching.
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