Imran Tahir’s decision to retire from ODI cricket after this year’s World Cup leaves Tabraiz Shamsi at a turning point, rather than a crossroads, writes Jonhenry Wilson.
Shamsi has effectively been in Tahir’s shadow for almost three years, but he will be afforded the opportunity to forge a different path after the May-July limited-overs showpiece in England and Wales.
He has played six ODIs alongside – and seven more besides – Tahir, but has never really obliged the partnership as expected.
Shamsi’s comparison to Indian left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is inevitable. Yadav is often empowered by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, whose presence in the XI or squad can also be a limiting factor.
It requires a measure of trust that Tahir’s exit may help Shamsi assume more responsibility, which should then also see the more childish aspects of those ‘shoe’ and ‘mask’ celebrations dissipate.
Shamsi might have to be less provocative and unprofessional in the eyes of the public, too. Fans and critics won’t expect intense, Tahir-esque privacy, but criticising a venue for poor catering – as a recent example – is not the most becoming of the country’s new premier wrist-spinner.
Last year’s One-Day Cup Cricketer of the Season and T20 Challenge Player of the Season – and this month’s recipient of a Cricket South Africa contract – needs to seek off-field rapport to match his on-field accolades as well.
Now is the occasion for those brash, boyish celebrations, the seeming touches of arrogance and privilege, to be offset by better fielding, greater fitness and more wickets for the Titans and Proteas. The juvenile ill-discipline needs to be exchanged for more maturity and levelheadedness.
This player, who has gained cricketing renown and personal popularity in the Caribbean Premier League and Indian Premier League before joining the Proteas, has not yet won over the South African public.
‘Two quality, attacking spinners in your middle periods are real assets. Shamsi looks in good condition as well – he has trimmed down a little bit,’ said former Proteas captain Graeme Smith earlier this year.
The signs are there, indeed, but enough evidence – cricketing and otherwise – to label Shamsi an appropriate wrist-spinning replacement for Tahir must still be collected.