Tabraiz Shamsi put the disappointments of the 2016/17 season behind him and was one of the star players for the Multiply Titans as they won two of the three domestic trophies on offer this season, so much so that he was named the Players’ Player of the Year at the franchise’s awards evening last week.
The left-arm wrist-spinner’s phenomenal form in limited-overs cricket – he was the leading wicket-taker in both the Momentum One-Day Cup (26 at 14.84, economy 4.50) and Ram Slam T20 Challenge (16 wickets, economy 7.00) – was obviously the major reason he won the prestigious award, but he also made a valuable contribution in the triumphant Sunfoil Series campaign, taking 13 wickets in three matches.
His Momentum One-Day Cup display included one of the greatest wicket-taking runs in South African day/night cricket history as he took 20 wickets in six games.
“It was a very, very successful season and to be the top wicket-taker in two competitions was really amazing for me. Last season there were quite a few disappointments, so it was important I had a good mindset this season because I was a bit disheartened. The best way to do that is to keep performing.
To play just the one Test in 2016 was one of the disappointments, although Keshav Maharaj has done an exceptional job since then,” said Shamsi.
At the age of 28, he is still developing his game and is still a few years away from the age a spinner is usually considered to be hitting his peak.
“I feel in a good space and I’m still very young for a spinner and I still have a lot to learn. But I feel comfortable now at international level. Even against India, who are great players of spin bowling, I felt relatively comfortable. So it was a massive boost doing well against them in unfavourable conditions for a spinner,” he said.
Shamsi played two of the ODIs and all three of the T20 internationals against India and, added to his experience of playing in both the Caribbean Premier League and the Indian Premier League, it means he is settling in nicely at international level.
“I went to the Caribbean Premier League as an uncapped player and it changed my life to get noticed there and then be signed up for the IPL. There’s a very negative perception of these T20 tournaments in general, which is a bit unfair. They brought me recognition and playing against world-class opposition in those leagues means I felt a lot calmer when I played for South Africa.
“I’ve been selected more for white-ball cricket for South Africa and I’ve bowled to all those international batsmen before. If I’ve made mistakes then I’ve learnt from them and if I can dominate them in the T20 league then I will be able to take that edge into international cricket. I’m a big believer in having the mental edge,” said Shamsi.
Part of the Titans’ success this season has been deploying both Shamsi and leg-spinner Shaun von Berg in matches, and Shamsi believes they dovetail well.
“We’re very spoilt to have Shaun, who is a great spinner, too and it’s quite exciting for a team to have two quality wrist-spinners. Generally I’m more attacking and he does the holding role more, but I also only went for 3.3 runs-per-over in the Sunfoil Series, so we complement each other, I feel comfortable doing both jobs.
“I still dream of playing more Test cricket and there is a sub-continent tour coming up, so I haven’t given up on that. I didn’t play a lot of four-day cricket last season, so this year was about finding my groove again. I’m confident I have a lot to offer with the red ball as well,” Shamsi said.
Having risen from a low ebb, Shamsi will continue to bring the sort of positive attitude to his game that usually brings results. Shamsi, together with von Berg, spinner Gregory Mahlokwana and batsman Tony de Zorzi, have been included in the squad to attend a bowling camp in Mumbai from April 28 - May 6.