Left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi has been tearing it up in domestic cricket for the last few years, but his progress on the international stage has been slow.
The Proteas’ pace obsession hasn’t helped the tweaker make an impact in international cricket and he hasn’t been able to nail down a place, even in his favoured white-ball formats.
While it will take a spectacular turnaround for him to make a Test spot his own, Shamsi undoubtedly has the quality to become a fixture in the ODI XI.
Shamsi’s international numbers to date are bang average, but he has never really been afforded a prolonged run in the team, being kept out by the superb form of the evergreen Imran Tahir.
For the Titans and Paarl Rocks, Shamsi has been nearly unplayable at times, but international performances of note have been few and far between.
In the first ODI against England at Newlands, Shamsi showed what he could do for the Proteas going forward, but he will need to back that display up in Durban and beyond. In the past, his star turns have come in isolation, especially in ODI cricket.
He took 3-36 against Australia in Port Elizabeth back in October 2016, but then played just two ODIs in 2017. In 2018, he claimed career-best figures of 4-33 against Sri Lanka in Dambulla, playing six ODIs that year. 2019 was a bleak year culminating in a World Cup where he played just twice and ended wicketless, conceding 116 runs in the 18 overs he bowled.
Tahir has now been left out of the Proteas squads as they build for the future, though he remains available for selection in T20I cricket. But that doesn’t mean Shamsi is an automatic pick.
Shamsi has two very serious young rivals for his spot in Bjorn Fortuin and George Linde. Neither player possesses the variations of Shamsi’s wrist spin, but Fortuin is handy with the bat and Linde is an out-and-out all-rounder with the potential to be a white-ball gun.
To continue to command a place in the Proteas team, Shamsi needs to be a consistent match-winner with the ball after the fashion of Tahir. Like Tahir, he can probably get away with conceding a few runs if he can halt the progress of the Proteas’ opponents through the middle overs by claiming wickets like he did at Newlands.
Shamsi’s time to shine is now, and he has the potential to be up there with the best white-ball bowlers – but time is not on his side.
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