With Tahir no longer, Shamsi embraces 'new beginning'

Tabraiz Shamsi (Gallo)
Tabraiz Shamsi (Gallo)

Cape Town - When Imran Tahir retired from ODI cricket after the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas said goodbye to the best spin bowler they had ever fielded in the format. 

It is a department where South African cricket has not always been blessed with quality, world-class depth. 

Tahir finished his career with superb numbers: 173 ODI wickets in 107 matches at an average of 24.83. No other South African spinner has taken more than 100 ODI wickets with Nicky Boje's 95 the next best. 

In a format that is increasingly favouring the batsmen with wickets getting flatter and scores getting higher, having a quality spinner is paramount to success. 

With Tahir out of the picture, that responsibility is now with 29-year-old Tabraiz Shamsi.

A member of that failed World Cup squad, Shamsi has quietly gone about notching up 18 ODIs since making his debut back in 2016. 

With the pedigree of Tahir having been available to South Africa for eight years, opportunities for other white ball spinners have been limited and nobody will know that better than Shamsi. 

Now, he has an opportunity to step out of Tahir's shadow and be his country's first-choice spinner in limited overs cricket. 

Tuesday's opening ODI against the world champions England at Newlands was the perfect start in that endeavour, with Shamsi claiming figures of 3/38 (10) to help restrict England to 258/8 (50) as the Proteas cruised to a seven-wicket win. 

For 'Shammo', it felt like a fresh start in international cricket. 

"I've been involved with the team for a number of years, but it's always the odd game here or there," he said ahead of the second ODI at Kingsmead on Friday.

"I'm excited for this new chapter and for me personally it felt like I was starting my career again in Cape Town.

"In a weird way, I'm actually excited to make mistakes along the way because now I have time to implement on them.

"Previously, it was a case of when I made mistakes in a game, it was only three months later that I could try and fix them. There wasn't that consistency.

"For me, this feels like the beginning."

The Durban wicket is one that has taken to spin in recent years and Shamsi will likely find some purchase. 

"If I get a chance to play, I might bowl better and not take the wickets. It's just the way cricket goes," he said. 

Under the new leadership of skipper Quinton de Kock, the Proteas have a clean slate after the misery of World Cup 2019 and Shamsi says there is a fresh hunger in the set-up. 

"I just feel there is a nice energy in this group of guys," he said.

"Maybe it's because we all started our careers around similar times. There are a lot of similar ages and we eventually got to the Proteas at different stages.

"It's young in terms of experience on the international stage, but you can see what this group can do if given the time and that's really exciting to see what they're capable of."

On De Kock's leadership style, Shamsi said it would take time for the side to adjust. 

"Quinny is different. He doesn't speak much," said Shamsi.

"He is a simple guy with very few words, but you understand his instructions perfectly."

Play on Friday starts at 13:00. 

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