Tabraiz Shamsi has been in the shadow of Imran Tahir in white-ball cricket for most of his international career, but he is finally back in the Test squad after appearing in the longest format of the game just twice, and he says he is eager to win matches in all formats for the Proteas in the West Indies.
Shamsi has established himself as South Africa’s No 1 limited-overs spinner, winning the Cricket SA T20 Player of the Year award on Monday night and featuring in seven of their nine ODIs since the start of 2020. But it is his Test prospects which are perhaps most interesting.
The left-arm wrist-spinner took a wicket in each innings on Test debut against Australia in Adelaide in November 2016 and his second Test was against Sri Lanka in Galle in July 2018. Shamsi was threatening in the first innings, taking three wickets, and then added a single wicket in the second innings.
But that was his last Test appearance, although coach Mark Boucher did want to play him in a three-pronged spin attack in the first Test against Pakistan in Karachi in January, but Shamsi pulled out shortly before the toss with a back spasm.
“As far as the Test team goes, I feel like I have unfinished business, but I have to wait my turn and give it my all when the chance comes. I only think about winning games for my country,” Shamsi said.
“The role of a spinner is very important in the West Indies because their batsmen play calypso cricket, high-octane cricket, just playing shots. So a leg-spinner or a wrist-spinner can definitely turn the game there.
“It hasn’t been easy being behind Imran Tahir for so many years, just playing one or two games here and there, usually when we’ve already won the series.
“And you only really learn when you play regularly. If you make a mistake on Wednesday then you can try and rectify it on Friday and Sunday. Consistency of playing leads to better performances.”
Confidence and consistent performances are certainly also products of having the same team together for a while, and Shamsi is looking forward to the T20 squad playing some regular cricket ahead of the World Cup in October/November.
South Africa will play five T20s against the West Indies and three versus Ireland on their tour, as well as having series against Sri Lanka and India lined up.
“It will be nice to go into the T20 World Cup with some confidence, but it is five months away so I just want to keep improving and hopefully I’ll be in even better form then after quite a good last season,” Shamsi said.
“The World Cup will be in the sub-continent so this is a nice opportunity to fine-tune and come up with and perfect game-plans where the pitches are normally slow.
“We may get the same conditions at the World Cup so we want tough games now.”