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Analyzing new military technology | Federal News Network

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Analyzing new military technology | Federal News Network

Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.

With so much new technology coming into the armed services, and with half the world it seems catching up to the U.S. military, maybe a little transformation might be needed. For how it might look, the Hudson Institute has launched what it calls the new Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. For what it’s looking at and why, the Federal Drive turned to Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Bryan Clark.

Tom Temin: Bryan, good to have you back.

Bryan Clark: Thanks for having me on, Tom. It’s great to be back.

Tom Temin: So does the world need another think tank within a think tank looking at defense issues?

Bryan Clark: Well, we think that we do. We saw in the current defense community, there’s not really anybody looking at how new technologies are going to directly impact the operations of future militaries and their strategies. You see a lot of discussion about policy implications of new technology like 5G and artificial intelligence that people in Congress and that people over in DoD, to some degree, are interested in. But we wanted to get into the operational side and focus on how these new technologies might change how militaries operate, what new opportunities might exist, what improved methods of deterrence might be possible, how militaries could become more affordable and more sustainable over the long term. So those are all ideas that we wanted to explore with the advent of new technologies.

Tom Temin: I was thinking about this the other day when Iran was shaking its sabers at U.S. aircraft carriers, and we’ve got 11 of them. And I think four or five or six are never at sea at a given time. And so maybe there’s six, seven, eight that can be out there. And if they can be sunk, then what? We’ve only got eight of them. I mean, it’s not the kind of thing that you’re going to be looking at?

Bryan Clark: Yeah, absolutely. And so, new technologies like autonomous systems, unmanned vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence are opening up a whole new avenue of power projection and deterrence for militaries. So what we’ve traditionally thought of as a way of deterring, which is to send an aircraft carrier strike group into the Persian Gulf and tell Iran to settle down, they may not be an approach that’s going to be viable for very much longer, because those countries have missiles that can reach out and attack that carrier. The narrative of a carrier on fire in the Persian Gulf is going to be very damaging to U.S. national security and U.,S. reputation even if the carrier is not sunk. Just the fact that that image is out there is going to be damaging enough. So the ability to shift to maybe using a more rebalanced fleet, so a fleet of smaller surface ships with unmanned vehicles, guided by artificial intelligence enables command and control. A lot of the stuff that you see current going on in the commercial world right now can be transitioned into the military. And we might be able to have a more cost-effective way of deterring a country like Iran, using these kinds of platforms than we could with that large, monolithic aircraft carrier that’s been a symbol of American power for so long. They saw their role, but maybe that’s not the right role for them.

Tom Temin: And what will the research agenda be and how will you come up with it at the new center?

Bryan Clark: So we formulated the research agenda. We have a board of advisors, which include people who are working in this space, basically between technology and defense operations. So, folks like Christian Brose, who recently was the Senate Armed Services Committee staff director and now chief of strategy at Anduril, which is a technology company, and people that have former military experience like John Greenert, who used to be the CNO about five years ago. So, those folks are helping us develop the research agenda. But the agenda we have thus far is looking at autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in a project we’re doing for DARPA called Mosaic Warfare. We’re doing a study looking at the implications of 5G for national security, but more specifically for defense operations. So not just policy implications of 5G, but how could the U.S. military leverage 5G, and how could US military investments improve the U.S. competitive position versus China in 5G. We’re doing a study looking at the future of anti-submarine warfare, which we’ll be publishing next month, that looks at using unmanned systems for that mission instead of manned platforms, as we do today, to achieve more affordability, and we’re doing a fleet architecture study in concert with the Office of Secretary of Defense that we’re we’re going on right now. So we’re looking at a lot of studies that are going to take new technologies and look at their implications for how the U.S. Defense Department operates, how the U.S. military operates and what that means for defense strategy.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Brian Clark. He’s senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the new Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. And some of the technologies you listed: autonomy, unmanned, artificial intelligence, 5G–these are all available democratically to almost everyone. And if you compare them to aircraft carriers, or long range heavy bombers or atomic bombs, those are expensive and not available to everybody. But the littlest, terrible place can use artificial intelligence and get their hands on a drone. So it seems like the challenge is really–how do you keep an edge with technology that is cheaply available to anyone that wants to get their hands on it?

Bryan Clark: Yeah, so that’s why we thought it was really important to look at operational concepts and strategy in addition to the new technologies because these technologies are coming whether we like it or not. So, our adversaries are likely to get them and they’re going to employ them in the best way that they know how so we’re not going to be able to maintain the technological advantage that we enjoyed during the Cold War. Instead, we’re going to have to be smarter about what we employ these technologies and come up with ways of operating the military that allow us to take advantage of what few, I guess, advantages we do have; for example, having a force that’s very highly trained and is very expeditionary in its mindset. So you might be able to use unmanned systems, artificial intelligence and our smart operators to create this very complex picture for an adversary that might be difficult for a country like China to decipher and then quickly defeat, and that might be enough to deter them from going after an objective like this Senkaku Islands that Japan controls or Taiwan, even. So there’s a combination of technology with new operational concepts that we think is really powerful, and is essential if we’re going to try to do something in a technological environment where the playing field was pretty level.

Tom Temin: And what about the lethality question because I mean, up until now, in war, you had to kill more of them than they killed of you? And is that still going to be part of the equation, sadly?

Bryan Clark: That’s a terrific question. So yeah, one big thing we’re seeing, one big change we’re seeing in the character of warfare is a shift away from attrition-centric warfare, which is kind of the basic U.S. approach that we’ve had over the last 20 years since the Cold War ended, essentially. We’ve essentially gone after our enemies and tried to destroy as much of them as possible to eventually cause them to either give up or to eliminate the threat to the United States. If you think of Iraq, if you think of the counterterrorism operations that we’ve had, you think of what we did in Libya, those have all been attrition-centric fights. Going into the future, we think we’re moving to a world where it’s much more about maneuver and affecting the adversaries’ decision making, because China and Russia don’t want to have World War III with the United States and a fight to the last soldier. They want to get what they want through guile through cyberwarfare, through political warfare, to get their objectives with the least cost possible. So if we can affect their decision-making and cause them to choose a less dangerous path or to accept the status quo, that’s going to be a win. So we have to change our theory of victory and what we consider to be the the metrics for military success in this world where it’s not about attrition anymore. It’s much more about decision-making and creating dilemmas for an enemy.

Tom Temin: It seems like the elements behind the military that have always been nationally important to any country, which is its economy, its diplomacy. And I would say its intellectual property. For want of a better word, its brainpower. It seems that those will still be important, and maybe even more so now than its lethality and force projection.

Bryan Clark: Yeah, absolutely. If we’re not going to be in a world where it’s all about how quickly and many of the enemy you can kill, it’s going to be much more about who can outsmart the other side and cut off options that would allow the enemy to get an easy win. So you’ll think about Ukraine and Crimea and how Russia was able to take advantage of the international situation to get a quick win with a low cost. Cutting off those kinds of options with the way that we operate our military and the way we use our other defense capabilities, that’s where new technologies might be able to afford us an advantage if we have the right operational concepts. But that’s the kind of world we’re going to be in, not the kind of world where we had Desert Storm, where it was destroying every Iraqi tank until the Iraqi government surrendered, essentially.

Tom Temin: Well, that was kind of fun to watch. But the final question, I guess, would be the Defense Department has been trying mightily to get new players, new technology, new industrial base, if you will, into its sphere. And that’s going to be one of the more difficult accomplishments to get done–shifting the industrial base to these types of outfits that can do these new things.

Bryan Clark: Absolutely. And that’s a focus of our work. In our research agenda, we’re going to be in each of these studies looking at how do we import these technologies that are maybe being primarily developed on the commercial side into the defense space, and the challenges there, if you’re a commercial company making returns of 10 times, 20 times on your technology investments, you’re not going to want to sell to the Defense Department and make a 10% return. That’s the kind of earnings that your venture capital investors are not interested in. So we have to come up with a model where these commercial providers are going to be incentivized to help provide capabilities to the Defense Department, which may mean accepting prices that we would not want to pay normally for a defense capability, but that would be more commensurate with what you might pay for on the commercial side. Think about an iPhone. The return for that is probably 50 to 60% for Apple. The Defense Department doesn’t want to pay those kinds of prices, but that may be the kind of change that is necessary to bring in commercial capabilities. So these new models and new approaches for bringing in outside technologies is something we’re going to be looking at at the center.

Tom Temin: Of course, paying $2,000 say for the military version of an iPhone is a lot better than paying 100 million dollars for some fighter that doesn’t quite work after 20 years.

Bryan Clark: Right. So that’s the question is that it may seem, individually, like these commercial technologies are too expensive to bring into the Defense Department. But when you look at the alternative, it may be better to take that approach if we can harness these new technologies in support of some concepts that will allow us to achieve victory without having to plan for World War III.

Tom Temin: Bryan Clark is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of its new Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. Thanks so much for joining me.

Bryan Clark: Thank you, Tom. It’s great being on.

Fashion

Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets | SuperSport – Africa’s source of sports video, fixtures, results and news






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