T20 isn’t just about taking wickets, feels Rajasthan Royals’ Shamsi

Some extraordinary performances in the last couple of years have seen South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi’s stock rise, and being the number one ranked bowler in the world in T20Is, the 31-year-old is certainly at the peak of his career.

The left-arm leg spinner has joined the Rajasthan Royals for the remainder of the IPL 2021 season and reckons his team can challenge for the trophy.

“I think whether the team is at the first spot or the fifth, the position at the halfway mark doesn’t really count. It’s what you do in the second half that matters. So, I think we’re in a good position right now and we’ve got half a tournament to play, so it depends on how we play the rest of the games. The mood in the camp looks really nice so I don’t see any reason why we can’t go on to win the competition,” stated Shamsi, who is currently in quarantine having arrived from Sri Lanka earlier this week.

The Johannesburg-based spinner added that he will aim to add to the Royals’ team environment. He said, “I’m really looking forward to the experience with a new team. What’s really, really exciting is just the vibe that I’ve picked up, from not just the players but also the management. The overall feeling in the Rajasthan camp is amazing — I’ve played for a few teams around the world, but I haven’t experienced something like this before.”

“I’m generally someone who tries to bring a very positive vibe to the team environment — whether it’s speaking to other bowlers, players, or just cracking a joke or two in the changing room to lighten up the mood. I’m a big believer in ‘a happy team is a team that performs better’. So that is something I try to do with my national team as well, and I will try to bring that here as well,” added Shamsi, who has 40 wickets in 30 ODIs and 49 wickets in 42 T20Is to his name for South Africa.

Typically, you would expect the world No. 1 bowler to be in huge demand but it hasn’t been the case in the IPL, and the experienced bowler admits it did affect him. He elaborated, “In the past when I was younger, it (not getting picked) did affect me a little bit. But as you grow older, you realise there are bigger things in life. You understand that there are certain things you can’t control, and I was certainly in that space. I feel like I just have to do my work, and if a team feels I can benefit them with my services, they would pick me like Rajasthan has, and I am going to try my best to make sure that we win the competition.”

Acknowledging that he has been following the Royals for a few seasons now, Shamsi added that he likes to watch cricket to learn more about what other players do. “I am actually somebody who likes watching all the games I can. I like to watch other players and see how they play, and try to pick up on one or two things — stuff that I can implement in my game – which other spinners are doing well, and also study the batsman a bit. And obviously Chris Morris and David Miller have been with RR for quite a bit, so I’ve always ended up watching a game or two whenever my schedule has permitted,” expressed the South African.

Adding that he’s excited about bowling against the best batsmen in the world, Shamsi said that the definition of a good spell has evolved. “With reference to the conditions in UAE and the short boundaries in Sharjah, I think it is a challenge. But it also means that you have an opportunity to get wickets. Sometimes on grounds like that, a spell which goes for 35-40 runs can be a match-winning spell, whereas in other games, a spell of 3 or 4 wickets can change a game. So, I think it’s not just about taking wickets,” said Shamsi who had picked up 3 wickets in 4 IPL matches in 2016.

A fan of Royals’ IPL-winning captain Shane Warne, Shamsi added that he’s had the opportunity to speak to the Australian legend a few times about his bowling. “Shane was of course a legendary leg spinner, and he was always a go-to man for any spinner. From him, I have learned to keep things simple and to be able to remember that we’re all different and that cricket becomes as complicated as you make it in your head.”