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Tabraiz Shamsi

‘No pressure’ – Tabraiz Shamsi ready for second debut if given a go

South Africa news

South Africa have travelled to Sri Lanka for the Test series with three spinners, and Tabraiz Shamsi, one of the pack, is confident that whoever is picked in the XI will do a good job.

Keshav Maharaj has been South Africa’s premier spinner in Test cricket for a while now, and has done his job well, with 74 wickets from 20 Tests.

In Sri Lanka, where the pitches are expected to assist spinners more, South Africa have two other spin options: Shamsi, the one-Test old left-arm wrist-spinner, and Shaun von Berg, the experienced but uncapped leg-spinner. And the side has four top-of-the-line pace options in Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi.

“I’ve played just the one Test and it was such a long time ago that it will definitely feel like my debut again if I’m chosen here. Just generally as well, normally we don’t play two spinners, but it’s according to the conditions. There’s no guarantee that I will play,” said Shamsi three days before the first of two Tests. “But if I get an opportunity I will do my best. Whoever does play, I have full confidence whoever does make up the bowling attack will do a great job.”

Shamsi has played just one Test, against Australia in Adelaide in November 2016
Shamsi has played just one Test, against Australia in Adelaide in November 2016

Shamsi’s only Test appearance came back in November 2016 against Australia in Adelaide, when he picked up two wickets.

“Every time you play for South Africa, you play for your country, there’s always a responsibility,” he said after a good performance against a Sri Lanka Board XI team, where he returned 5/45. “Whether you’re playing as the only spinner or you’re playing with two guys, you’ll always have to do a good job for your team. So I don’t see any change.

“Keshav’s a great bowler as well. He’s done so well since he has come into the team. If anything, it makes things easier for me, because he has got more experience than I do, so I am just looking to do what I can do. There’s no pressure. We have a great bowling attack, it doesn’t rely on one person."

Interestingly, the 28-year-old Shamsi has never played in Sri Lanka, in any format.

“It was nice to get some overs under the belt, especially because I’ve never been to Sri Lanka before,” he said of the two-day tour game. “So it was nice to bowl in these conditions and get a feel of the wickets and the pitches.

“The whole chat and everything was that it would spin, obviously. This wicket was quite nice to bat on too, so it was a nice challenge as well, for the bowlers, to get a good workout. It was a shorter game, so it was nice to bowl in tough conditions. It’s always nice to bowl in the subcontinent, back home the pitches are not so spinner-friendly, so it will be a nice challenge.”

'Back home the pitches are not so spinner-friendly, so it will be a nice challenge' – Shamsi
'Back home the pitches are not so spinner-friendly, so it will be a nice challenge' – Shamsi

In the Test series, he isn’t the only left-arm wrist-spinner around. Depending on the teams’ plans, we could have Shamsi in one XI and Lakshan Sandakan in the other, making for gripping viewing.

“We have more variations than the stock bowlers. It’s something new as well, batsmen don’t really practice as much against it. So it gives an element of surprise as well. But element of surprise or not, you have to do your job as best as possible. It doesn’t count for anything if you don’t execute,” said Shamsi.

“I think variations definitely help you as a bowler, because it puts doubts in the batsman’s minds as well. But the stock balls very important as well. It doesn’t help to just have variations in your arsenal, just to keep the batsman guessing a bit.”

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