New group of Proteas intent on creating their own history, says Shamsi

Tabraiz Shamsi celebrates one of his three wickets in the T20 World Cup semifinal against Afghanistan.
Tabraiz Shamsi celebrates one of his three wickets in the T20 World Cup semifinal against Afghanistan.
Image: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

“This group of guys doesn’t have that baggage,” Tabraiz Shamsi simply said.  

It took a while but finally a South African men’s cricket team was able to unburden itself from the country’s history at World Cups. 

So many semifinal heartbreaks, starting with “22 off 1 ball”, and then “Donald didn’t run”. Then Dhaka 2011. Auckland 2015. Durban 2007. Duckworth/Lewis. AB’s tears. Morne’s tears. The Netherlands.

In Trinidad on Wednesday night, in a stadium named for a player who smashed South Africa out of the 1996 World Cup, the knockout ghosts were laid to rest.

While understanding the significance of South Africa qualifying for a men’s World Cup final for the first time, Shamsi, who bowled 11 balls against Afghanistan and took three wickets, also wanted to make clear the history of previous generations does not weigh down Aiden Markram’s team.

Asked if the Proteas' World Cup record before Wednesday night's nine-wicket semifinal win at Brian Lara Cricket Academy in San Fernando, Trinidad, was talked about in the changeroom, Shamsi replied: “Not within the group.

“But on the outside, sure, and that is natural. History is something you carry with you. The thing is, it is not this group.”

It was a point reiterated by Markram and Marco Jansen.

“I’m too young, I don’t believe in that. I think I am lucky and fortunate. For the guys who have been playing for a long time, for them, to buy in and change that narrative is good,” Jansen said.

Shamsi shared a hug with Dale Steyn, who tweeted about how emotional it was to witness first-hand a South African team reach a World Cup final.

Markram understood why it meant so much. “Those guys are legends of South African cricket. In my eyes, it doesn’t matter that they didn’t make it to a final, because they inspired all of us to play for South Africa,” said the Proteas captain. 

“Because of them we try to represent those people who have played before us really well. We are glad we have made them proud, we've got one more step left, but for the time being I’m glad guys such as Dale Steyn are incredibly happy.”

South Africa’s journey to Saturday’s final was anything but smooth. There were heart-stopping moments along the way; 12/4 against the Dutch, a four-run win against Bangladesh, a one-run win against Nepal and a squeaky-bum time rain-interrupted classic against co-hosts the West Indies. 

“We have had several close games and got across the line every time. That narrative of us not doing well in tight situations, we’ve answered that enough times in this tournament,” Shamsi said.

Not that this year’s team is devoid of star power, but unlike previous teams they’re not dependent only on Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock or David Miller to provide a match-winning performance.

“No-one in this team is given the responsibility to win the game for the team,” Shamsi said. “Maybe in other teams or Proteas sides of the past there was a specific batter who was relied upon, or a specific bowler relied upon. I can't pinpoint which batter or bowler is responsible for making us win.

“In most teams if you get one or two of the main batters out, the team panics; where with us, who is that guy? Everyone is responsible for doing their bit to make us win and that is the way we have rolled.

Some guys will have a good game and some a bad game, but as a squad we have individuals who are capable of winning games on their own.”

From Keshav Maharaj defending 11 runs in the final over against Bangladesh to Ottneil Baartman defending eight against Nepal, it has indeed been a case of the squad spreading the load. 

South Africa haven’t properly clicked with the bat yet, either. The pitches they’ve played on have made batting impossible sometimes, but they persevered and now stand on the brink of a new sort of history.

“We did not come here to get to the final. We came here to win the final,” Shamsi said.

“It’s nothing over the top. We are celebrating, we will have [a good] night tonight [Wednesday], travel to Barbados [on Thursday] and then regroup and get ready for the final.”


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.