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Implementing the Right Technologies to Make Your Restaurant Contactless |

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Implementing the Right Technologies to Make Your Restaurant Contactless |

But today’s health risks are forcing more extreme and immediate contact-free business protocols, especially for restaurants, coffee shops, retailers, and other service-industry businesses that, until now, were highly personally interactive.

Fortunately, technology is keeping up. It’s never been easier to make your restaurant business contactless.

By implementing the right contactless business tools and practices right now, you can eliminate unnecessary interactions between staff and customers and make your efforts more profitable, efficient, and contemporary along the way. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to implement touchless efficiencies.

Picking the Best Approach for You

There’s no one right way to redesign your business to be contactless. But there are crucial elements, and we’re not talking swapping a handshake for an elbow bump. Contactless business relies on the implementation of technology to allow customers to:

  1. Shop or order remotely or without staff interaction
  2. Minimize face-to-face customer service and other high-touch business elements

Technology that can help with this includes websites, apps, plugins, operating systems, and more. Some you can create yourself (hello, “Beer-O-Mat” contactless pickup at an Oakland, California brewery!) or with the help of a little tech support. Others are full-blown systems that require fees and come with access to a support team. (We share more about both below.)

How much technology you need to support contactless business depends on your company and its scope. For example, a small neighborhood deli may be able to handle posting their menu on their website, taking orders and credit card payment over the phone, then creating a pickup area where customers can grab their order when it’s ready. Technically, that’s contactless.

But imagine if Starbucks only offered in-person or phone orders; they’d have a line of customers around the block and a busy signal or an army of phone receptionists and baristas. They’d also surely lose the business of people who don’t want to wait or are uncomfortable being around crowds.

Or what about a restaurant that wants to provide sit-down service without too much close-up interaction between customers and staff?

As you read on, consider what contactless options you need to create the most successful interactions with your customers, then implement technology to support it. It will not only create a safer work environment for your team and your customers, but it will also help keep labor costs down, streamline operations, and keep you at the forefront of business trends that are here to stay.

Gone are the days of simply providing a reusable menu to customers, be it for a restaurant, a hotel for in-room dining, or even a car wash. Holding a menu that’s been grasped by hundreds of others is about as welcome right now as group photos and indoor weddings.

Sure, you can print your list of services on paper and have customers discard it after use, but that’s wasteful and still requires interaction. Instead, celebrate the contactless, or digital, menu that can be accessed from anywhere through a smartphone or computer.

A contactless menu can be as simple as a website listing or social media image or as fancy as a custom app. Since it’s common for diners to review menus online before choosing a restaurant, it’s in your best interest to showcase your menu regardless. However, whether customers place a phone or on-premise order, allowing them to access your information through their own technology eliminates the need for handing anyone a menu. Bonus: Changes made on a digital menu don’t require reprinting!

For on-premise interactions, engage your customer with the help of a QR code. This square block of black and white symbols is easily programmed through any number of QR code websites to carry your information (such as menus), links, coupons, and more.

Create your own QR Code design by remixing the templates above. Note that you’ll need to replace the QR code with one of your own.

Some of the many QR code generators include Kaywa (fee-based), QR Code Generator (free), Flowcode (free for the first 20 codes generated), and ecommerce website Shopify (free). Then link your QR Code to a menu or website destination–Adobe Spark has beautiful menu templates, specifically designed for smartphone screens. (Leverage a free 60-day Spark trial to try all of Adobe’s design and marketing tools for free.)

Post your QR code outside your business or, for seated dining, on a table tent in the center of each table so diners can scan it with their smartphone and access your menu. Since in this scenario, customers will be looking at a menu on their phones, make sure it’s designed with small screens in mind. The following templates put you on the fast track.

Digital Menu Design Tips

  1. Think about where you’re hosting your menu.
    This tip will help you determine what dimensions your menu should take. If you’re using social, for instance, make sure you resize your graphic to fit the optimized aspect ratio for each channel. And consider vertical aspect ratios to fit today’s modern smartphones.
  2. Use a grid. And pay attention to hierarchy.
    Designing along columns and rows helps to bring order to your menu. Break your menu into sections, with clear, consistent headers to help readers easily navigate.
  3. Use easy-to-read fonts.
    Save the fanciful typography for bigger and bolder posters and signage. In general, a modern san serif font makes for easier web reading.
  4. Keep colors to a minimum.
    Too many can be distracting and leaves greater room for clashing. Pick three colors or cycle through Spark’s smart, designer-approved color palettes. Bonus points for reinforcing your brand colors here!
  5. Cut what isn’t necessary.
    Remember that your customers will likely be reading this menu on a tiny screen, so the more concise the better. A digital menu is probably not the place for a paragraph about the origins of your most famous dish. Save those juicy details for the Instagram Story series that entices people to click through to the menu. Then make sure your naming and copy is consistent and you offer pertinent information, such as price.

Upleveling Your Contactless Ordering

While digital menus are the low-hanging fruit of minimizing contact, recent technology goes a lot further. Today’s self-serve opportunities are straight out of a sci-fi film. For example, digital service provider GoTab offers QR code functionality that allows users to browse menu selections, order, and even share or split the bill, calculate the tip, and keep the tab open until they’re ready to close it out. According to the company, the platform is used by hundreds of restaurants, including those owned by famed chef José Andrés.

Other functionalities from such providers can include:

  • contactless reservations
  • waitlist sign-up
  • online check-in
  • access to royalty and rewards programs
  • the ability to review past orders, save favorite customized orders, and reorder favorites.

Today’s benefits of contactless ordering go beyond creating a safe interaction; they help you provide customers a top-quality experience, give you important insights into your customers, and provide tools to foster loyalty.

Of course, there are other options for online ordering as well, including creating ordering functionality within your website. This is a great way to avoid ongoing fees associated with partnering with third-party online ordering and delivery app vendors such as DoorDash and Grubhub. Take San Francisco’s Om Indian Cuisine restaurant, for example. Their website’s online ordering, powered by EZMenus, is basic but it works just fine and keeps the profits in their pocket.

To make your website ecommerce-compatible, it will need to be on a platform that can implement a digital shopping cart and payment functionality. If your site is on WordPress, you can use plugins like WooCommerce (which enables users to add items to a shopping cart) and Stripe or Square (which processes payments) . Some companies simply build their site on Shopify, which is focused on ecommerce but is limited in its design and content functionality. A conversation with a knowledgeable web developer will help you know what’s best for your business.

Implementing Touchless Payment Options

One of the more uncomfortable transactions of in-store shopping during a pandemic is touching touchpads that have been fingered by countless other customers. Another is handing over cash and receiving change that has passed through an untold number of hands. As customers look to avoid touching surfaces, encourage them to use their mobile devices or contactless cards, disable the signature screen, and skip the receipt screen.

Whatever kind of business you run, you can create an online ordering page with Square Online Store and offer curbside pickup and delivery by your in-house staff or a third-party courier. The online ordering page automatically integrates with all Square POS apps, Order Manager, and Customer Directory.

If you only have a single product to sell or don’t need a whole online store, you can use Square Online Checkout to create shareable purchase links. Give whatever you’re selling a name and price, create the link, and then add it to your website, blog, email, texts, or social posts.

Even without an online store, you can take payments remotely. You can use invoices to request and collect online payments for goods and services — no matter where you are. Customers can pay invoices from their mobile phone or computer with their debit or credit cards.

Another option for collecting payments and making sales online is a virtual terminal, which turns your computer into a point-of-sale and allows you to key-in and charge credit and debit cards from your web browser. You can also use a virtual terminal to schedule recurring quick-charge or itemized sales for repeat customers.

Contactless payment eliminates the hassle, and it’s not just available through apps, such as those mentioned above. You can also employ technology compatible with tap-to-pay credit cards and mobile wallets (think Apple Pay and uploaded credit cards). These eliminate the threat of cross-contamination. They also expedite payment faster than traditional transactions and are more secure than credit cards.

Provide Contactless Receipts

With contactless payment comes the option of contactless receipts, sent via email or SMS, and the option to forgo a receipt altogether. This has myriad benefits—it eliminates paper waste and associated costs and decreases unnecessary contact with customers.

Making an Easy & Delightful Pick-Up Process

How to go Contactless (for businesses): contactless pickup signboard

In-house seated dining requires servers to drop food and drinks at the table, but counter service and takeout offerings afford another opportunity for safe, distanced food or merchandise pickup. To make this happen, post a sign that clearly shows pickup location. Then come up with a system for contactless pickup.

Here are four ideas for a great contactless pickup for the customer:

  • Request that customers call or text upon arrival so you can place their item in the pickup location. This is a great solution for a small operation who still wants to ensure there’s some human-to-human interaction and even potential for day-lifting emoji-filled exchanges.
  • Follow the lead of Peet’s Coffee; they place freshly made coffee drinks marked with the customer’s name on a counter where they can be retrieved. Just make sure the pickup location is spacious with easy access; no one wants to shimmy past another customer to retrieve their burger and fries.
  • Follow the cue of businesses like Caviar and institute curbside pick-up. While not completely contact-less since you’ll need runners to pass off packages to customers in their cars, this option is efficient and safer than indoor pick-up options. Create clear guidelines for how packages should be exchanged and make sure both parties take precautions, such as wearing masks.
  • Have fun with it! Your pickup space is an opportunity to delight your guests and market your personality to your customers. That “Beer-O-Mat” mentioned above? It’s just a giant, colorful facade with a window for staff to hand out beer. But it amuses customers, and it generated free publicity in the local paper.

Promoting Your Contactless Experience

If you’re going to invest in moving your business to a touch-free model, make sure you’re letting your customers know! Not only does providing clear instructions and signage aid the customer experience, but posting about your new protocols on social media could lure customers back and have you back in business, stronger and more modern than ever.

Why Contactless Protocols May Be Here to Stay

Prioritizing a contactless purchasing experience may not have been top of mind at the beginning of 2020. But like many things, the restaurant and other retail industries are being forced to evolve at lightning speed in order to survive, thrive, and provide a safe experience for staff and customers.

Fortunately, all of the contactless business tools and ideas listed here are important for evolving and streamlining your business regardless of today’s circumstances. There are other, important benefits to these protocols, which will continue to deliver long after the pandemic is behind us.

Consider the waste-minimizing benefits of offering digital menus, which also means fewer printing costs. Cashless payment systems can introduce accounting efficiencies to help you make more data-driven decisions. Even more impactful to the bottom line: think about how these digital interactions are helping you to get closer to your customers online, where you can more easily reach them again, gather feedback, or learn about their preferences. Not only do these protocols keep your business safely running, but they open up a world of opportunities to transform how you connect and ultimately convert your customers in the long term.

Erika Lenkert is a veteran food and drink writer based in San Francisco. She is founder and editor in chief of GFF: Gluten Free Forever Magazine.

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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