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The Sports Report: Chip Kelly tested positive for the coronavirus

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The Sports Report: Chip Kelly tested positive for the coronavirus

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Ben Bolch on UCLA football: Coach Chip Kelly tested positive for the novel coronavirus in late March after campus was shut down, according to multiple people close to the football team who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss a private health issue.

Kelly does not know how he contracted the virus, the people close to the team said. He was tested after experiencing mild symptoms and having followed all public health recommendations, including physical distancing, wearing a mask outside his home and not socializing or going anywhere except to obtain essentials such as groceries. His wife, Jill, also tested positive and recovered at home.

Kelly and UCLA athletic department officials declined to comment on his positive test.

The coach immediately informed athletic department officials, staff and coaches as well as players and their families of his positive test. No one associated with the team or athletic department had to quarantine as a result of Kelly’s positive test. He shared his story with his team to demonstrate how players should take the virus seriously.

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LAKERS

Tania Ganguli on the Lakers: Just as halftime was about to expire, Dwight Howard took a three-pointer and sank it. Then he shuffled to his right and sank another from the top of the arc.

During the regular season, the Lakers joked about Howard being a three-point specialist given that his shooting percentage was so high. After all, at one point in the season, Howard had made all of the threes he’d taken (1 out of 1).

Howard didn’t get much playing time in Thursday night’s game against the Houston Rockets. The Lakers decided to use smaller lineups against a Rockets team that likes to do the same. They even made starting center JaVale McGee inactive.

At center they played Anthony Davis, who typically prefers to play power forward. They started Kyle Kuzma at power forward, Danny Green at small forward, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard and Quinn Cook at point guard.

The Lakers fell to the Rockets, 113-97. Rockets star James Harden led all scorers with 39 points, playing 35 minutes. Kuzma led the Lakers with 21 points, making eight of his 16 shots, with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Davis played 30 minutes and scored 17 points with 12 rebounds and seven turnovers.

It was a night for experimentation given what players the Lakers had available.

“I don’t think this is going to be a long-term solution for us,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said before the game. “It’s something that after we played them last time I wanted to play around with. Really doesn’t have anything to do with how we played the last couple of games offensively. It’s just something that… you collect sample sizes in the regular season for things that work and don’t work against certain matchups and this is something I felt like I wanted to do.”

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Clippers center Ivica Zubac slipped toward the rim Thursday night and, catching a pass, dunked with both hands as a chorus of yells erupted from his team’s bench in the opposite corner inside HP Field House.

Dallas immediately called a timeout, its deficit now eight points with four minutes to play in the third quarter. But before Zubac could reach a padded seat for a moment of rest, teammate Joakim Noah came off the bench and delivered a two-handed shove to Zubac’s chest. The two centers smiled.

It was one of the few moments Thursday, during a 126-111 Clippers victory, when Zubac encountered resistance getting where he wanted to be. The young center made all his 10 shots to finish with 21 points, tying Charles Smith for the most field goals made in a game without a miss. He also grabbed 15 rebounds — including six on the offensive glass, only few less than the Mavericks’ entire roster managed.

“He was phenomenal,” coach Doc Rivers said.

GOLF

Sam Farmer on the PGA: Jason Day, the 2015 PGA champion, shot a five-under 65 to take the early lead at the PGA Championship, his first bogey-free round at a major since the third round of the 2017 British Open. By the time the sun broke through in the afternoon, creating postcard views, Brendon Todd tied Day at five under. Todd’s best finish in a major was a tie for 12th in the 2015 British Open.

Lurking one stroke behind Day and Todd is a group that includes Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, and Martin Kaymer, each of whom has won multiple majors.

In fact, Koepka is the two-time defending PGA champion and looking to join Walter Hagen as the only players to win the Wanamaker Trophy three years in a row. Hagen actually strung together four such wins from 1924-27.

“I mean, it’s only 18 holes right now,” said Koepka, who had six birdies to offset his two bogeys. “I feel good. I feel confident. I’m excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”

Tiger Woods is in a group at two-under despite missing seven of 14 fairways, and at one point five in a row. He made birdie putts of eight, 32, 14, and 12 feet, and a nearly 21-footer for par. A four-time PGA champion, Woods shot a 68 for his lowest opening round in this tournament since 2009 (67).

ANGELS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: The quick hook that Angels manager Joe Maddon has wielded with his starting pitchers in the first two weeks of the season — usually to the detriment of his team — was nowhere to be found in T-Mobile Park Thursday afternoon in Seattle.

Dylan Bundy got into an early rhythm and was so effective and efficient with his four-pitch mix that Maddon rode the burly right-hander down the backstretch and to the finish line of a 6-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Bundy, acquired in a December trade with Baltimore, became the first Angels pitcher to throw a complete game in more than two years, giving up one run and four hits, striking out 10 and walking none, to help the Angels to their first series win of the season.

Mixing his 91-mph fastball with pinpoint control of an 80-mph slider, 82-mph changeup and 73-mph curve, Bundy needed only 107 pitches — 76 of them strikes — to go the distance, the first Angel to do so since Andrew Heaney’s one-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals on June 5, 2018.

DUCKS

The Ducks have re-signed defenseman Jacob Larsson to a two-year, $2.4-million deal.

The Ducks announced the return of their restricted free agent Thursday.

Larsson will make $1.1 million next season and $1.3 million in the 2021-22 campaign.

The 23-year-old Swede has two goals and 14 assists in 113 games over the past three seasons with the Ducks, who drafted him in the first round in 2015. He set career highs with two goals and 11 assists in 60 games last season.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

San Francisco at Dodgers, 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Angels at Texas, 6 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Sparks at Las Vegas, 7 p.m., ESPN2

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

Hal Sutton overcame some heart-stopping moments on the back nine at Riviera Country Club that included three straight bogeys on this date in 1983, and edged Jack Nicklaus by one stroke to win the PGA Championship for his first major title.

Sutton saw a five-shot lead dwindle to just one but he parred the final three holes to hold off Nicklaus who finished second for the 19th time in a major tournament. Sutton’s total for the four rounds was 10-under par 274, a score that was two shots better than what Ben Hogan shot at Riviera in winning the 1948 U.S. Open.

Nicklaus was the first to offer congratulations to Sutton. “That will be the first of many for you.”

More memorable games and outstanding sports performances on August 7 through the years:

1907 — Rookie right-hander Walter Johnson, at 19 years old, recorded the first of his 417 big league victories when he pitched the Washington Senators to a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians at Washington. Johnson, known as “The Big Train,” played his entire 21-year career for the Senators and his 417 victories are second on the all-time list behind Cy Young’s 511. He was one of the inaugural members of baseball’s Hall of Fame when he was elected in 1936.

1982 — Tommy Haughton, 25, was the youngest driver to win the Hambletonian Stakes when he drove Speed Bowl to victory in the classic trotting race’s 10-horse final at Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.Y. With Jazz Cosmos ahead after three-fourths of a mile, Speed Bowl closed in on the leader and Haughton urged him to push his neck in front in the final few strides to win in one minute, 57 seconds.

1983 — Distance runner Grete Waitz of Norway won the women’s marathon in the first world track and field championships at Olympic Stadium at Helsinki, Finland. Waitz ran the 26.2 miles in two hours, 28 minutes and nine seconds, ahead of Marianne Dickerson of the United States and Raisa Smekhnova of the Soviet Union. The Norwegian took the lead at the 19-mile mark and won by over three minutes.

1994 — Carolyn Hill won her first and only LPGA tournament when she shot a final-round 69 that gave her a three-stroke victory over Nancy Ramsbottom at the McCall’s Classic at Stratton Mountain Country Club in Stratton Mountain, Vt. Hill, who tied the tournament record of 13-under-par 275, had made a tour-record 359 starts over 14 years without finishing in first place.

1999 — Wade Boggs, 41, who wound up his stellar career in Tampa Bay, was the first major league player to collect his 3,000th hit with a home run when he connected on a two-run shot off of Chris Haney of the Cleveland Indians at Tropicana Field. Despite Boggs’ milestone, the Devil Rays went on to lose 15-10.

2007 — Barry Bonds, who was suspected of using steroids, broke Henry Aaron’s storied home run record when he hit No. 756 off Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals over the right-center field fence in the fifth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Although Aaron did not attend the game, he recorded a congratulatory message in a video tape that was played on the scoreboard.

2012 — Aly Raisman, 18, was the first U.S. woman gymnast to win a gold medal in floor exercise and she also picked up a bronze medal on the balance beam on the final day of competition at the London Summer Olympics. Raisman, the captain of the U.S. team, just missed a medal in the all-around, when she finished with the same score as Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, but dropped to fourth place on a tiebreaker.

2016 — Three years after Jim Furyk became the sixth player to shoot a 59, he took it even lower at the Travelers Championship when he fired a 58 in the final round, the first ever on the PGA Tour, at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Furyk had an eagle and seven straight birdies when he made the turn and his last birdie came at No. 16. He finished tied for fifth at 11-under par, three strokes behind the winner Russell Knox.

2016 — Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins hit a stand-up triple off the wall in the seventh inning from a pitch by reliever Chris Rusin for his 3,000th hit in the major leagues. He became the 30th player and the first from Japan to reach the milestone in a 10-7 win over Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Suzuki’s hit gave him a total of 4,278 for 25 seasons at the time, nine of which were played in Japan.

SOURCES: The Times, Associated Press

And finally

Ichiro Suzuki gets his 3,000th hit. Watch it here.

Until next time…

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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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