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The Texas Rangers’ lore spurred cultural fawning and sports namesakes that have long masked a history of violence and racism

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The Texas Rangers’ lore spurred cultural fawning and sports namesakes that have long masked a history of violence and racism

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Tribune) – Growing up in Monahans in the 1960s, Arlinda Valencia said she was used to hearing about the valor of the Texas Rangers in school and on television.

“I grew up watching The Lone Ranger,” she said, referring to the 1950s Western drama series. “The Lone Ranger was a hero, and that’s what we grew up with, thinking that the Texas Rangers were heroes.”

But when Valencia learned from a relative that the Texas Rangers took part in killing her great-grandfather, Longino Flores, and 14 other unarmed Tejano men and boys in the 1918 Porvenir massacre, she slowly began to reevaluate her long-held perception of the law enforcement agency.

Now Valencia, 68, is spreading word of the massacre in hopes of shedding light on a piece of Texas history that historically has not been given widespread attention: the Texas Rangers’ racist and xenophobic past. She developed a website that details the massacre and has organized screenings of “Porvenir, Texas,” a 2019 documentary about the killings.

This year’s prevalent and ongoing anti-police brutality protests have added resonance to Valencia’s cause as calls have surfaced for the Texas Rangers name to be stricken from the modern-day Texas Department of Public Safety investigative agency, North Texas’ Major League Baseball team and college mascots. Meanwhile, historians and public officials are at odds over how to reconcile the law enforcement unit’s racist historical acts with its long-running exalted place in Texas history and culture.

The Porvenir massacre is one of many past acts of violence committed by the Texas Rangers against people of color in the state, including indigenous Texans, Black Texans and Tejanos, or Mexican Americans from the South Texas region, from the 19th century through the 20th century.

As a law enforcement agency, the Rangers were unofficially founded in 1823 for the purpose of a “punitive expedition against a band of Indians,” according to the Texas State Historical Association. They continued to drive indigenous people from their homelands during the Cherokee War in 1839, as well as the Council House Fight and Battle of Plum Creek against the Comanches in 1840.

In the mid-1800s, the Rangers captured runaway enslaved Black people seeking freedom in Mexico through the Callahan Expedition, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

In 1918, the Rangers slaughtered Tejanos during the Porvenir massacre, said John Morán González, a literature professor and the director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. According to the Texas Observer, the massacre occurred when a group of Rangers, U.S. Army soldiers and ranchers arrived at the Porvenir village near El Paso in pursuit of revenge for a series of cattle raids by Tejanos along the border. A 2018 El Paso Times article reported there was no evidence implicating the Porvenir villagers in the cattle raids, but the Rangers nevertheless separated 15 men and boys from their families and executed them.

Decades later, in the mid-1950s, Rangers helped the Texas governor, Allan Shivers, resist a federal court order for Mansfield High School to desegregate, according to the Texas Historical Association.

The Department of Public Safety investigative agency did not directly comment on calls to change its name, but wrote in a statement that it is “aware of recent stories about the history of the Texas Rangers and defers judgment on the veracity of those depictions to Texas historians.”

“The modern-day Texas Rangers are comprised of principled men and women of great skill and integrity who are fully committed to the rule of law,” it said in a statement.

Doug Swanson’s 2020 book “Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers” prompted the removal of a statue of a Texas Ranger from Dallas’ Love Field Airport in June by city officials.

Meanwhile, progressive activists have petitioned for the Texas Rangers baseball team to change its name.

“While we may have originally taken our name from the law enforcement agency, since 1971 the Texas Rangers Baseball Club has forged its own, independent identity,” said John Blake, a team spokesperson. “The Texas Rangers Baseball Club stands for equality. We condemn racism, bigotry and discrimination in all forms.”

And ahead of the DPS investigative unit Texas Rangers’ bicentennial celebration in 2023, historians and activists are advocating for a more comprehensive portrayal of the law enforcement entity in the public eye.

Historians like González believe the Texas Rangers name should be retired entirely from the modern agency, the baseball team and local mascots, like that of San Antonio College, which decided to change its mascot’s name last month, according to KENS. Along with Benjamin Johnson, a Loyola University Chicago history professor, González co-founded Refusing to Forget, an organization that hopes to educate people about state-sanctioned violence against Tejanos in the early 20th century.

“I just think it’s impossible to talk about this particular organization and use the word ‘ranger’ without invoking this 200 year-old actual history of violent policing, especially against communities of color,” Johnson said.

But Jerry Patterson, a former Texas land commissioner and state senator, said he believes scrapping the Texas Ranger name from various organizations is “total bullshit.”

Patterson, 73, said he has seen nationwide public perception of the Rangers move “like a pendulum swing,” from glorifying the Rangers to demonizing them — both of which he believes are misguided approaches. Instead of taking down statues and changing names, Patterson said, Texas historians and activists should portray the multidimensional history of the Rangers, which he said was his goal when he worked on the “Porvenir, Texas” documentary.

“We have to tell the story, the complete story, warts and all, good, bad and ugly, and that’s not what’s being done,” he said.

The role of media

González, 54, remembers watching Walker, Texas Ranger in the early ’90s — a television series starring Chuck Norris and one of many examples of mass media that he believes has exalted the Texas Rangers and gifted them with an almost mythical position in Texas culture.

As a child growing up in Houston, Johnson, 48, recalls reading books about the Rangers that would lionize them, “telling these stories of heroism and bravery and apprehending various criminals and fighting various people” while ignoring the carnage.

“To put it more simply, that glorification of the Rangers, it’s built on a lot of blood,” said González, who is half-Tejano and was raised in Brownsville.

Byron Johnson, the director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, a state-designated historical center, said there are thousands of books, hundreds of films and a handful of television programs about the Rangers, making them a “legendary” force in Texas history and culture.

But the museum has been the subject of controversy among historians and officials who are concerned it only presents the positive aspects of the Texas Rangers.

“They lionize some of the murderers that our scholarship has looked at and that have come to light in recent years,” Benjamin Johnson, the history professor, said. “They simply ignore critical takes so you can’t find any critical books, of which there have actually been a lot for decades and decades, [in the museum].”

Swanson, the journalist and author, agreed. He said it’s important to acknowledge the Rangers’ positive contributions to Texas — such as fighting the Ku Klux Klan and saving Texans from lynch mobs. But, Swanson said, the museum ignores the perspectives of Native Americans, Hispanic Texans and Black Americans and omits the Porvenir killings from its website.

Byron Johnson, the museum’s director, said its current and rotating exhibits have covered the Porvenir massacre and women, Hispanic people and Native Americans in the Texas Rangers.

“However, exhibit space and resources have limited what needs to be covered in the exhibits,” he wrote in an email.

He added that in March, the museum approved a contract to review its programs and consider expanding its exhibits that will “involve a diverse group of citizens, historians, authors and Texas Rangers.”

Valencia, the great-granddaughter of Longino Flores, said the museum needs to hold itself accountable for portraying an accurate history of the Rangers.

“I think they should keep the museum, but they need to put the people that are responsible for all these deaths, they need to fess up and there needs to be in that whole thing a section of the dark past,” she said.

Reforming Texas history curricula

Benjamin Johnson said that Refusing to Forget wants Texas education officials to incorporate more events that happened between 1910 and 1920 along the Texas-Mexico borderlands into Texas history classes that are required for fourth and seventh graders. The Porvenir massacre is currently not explicitly mentioned in the curricula.

“We would like these episodes to be represented,” he said.

He and González want Texas history curriculum to include more perspectives on the Rangers.

“[State history education] has been part of the process of glorifying the Rangers,” González said. “Even starting at those early moments where the true history of the Rangers and their role in promoting white supremacy has to be made clear.”

But it is up to individual school boards and teachers in the state to decide what aspects of Texas Rangers to include and what history books to use.

“Districts have the ability to choose from the state-adopted materials or use their funding to select something that was not State Board of Education-adopted so they’re not all using the same book,” said Georgina Pérez, the secretary of the Texas State Board of Education and a board representative from El Paso.

Pérez added that it is possible that certain teachers in conservative areas may choose to teach lessons on the Texas Rangers that present them in a more heroic light than others.

“I think that in fourth grade I can almost guarantee everyone is taught like [the Rangers] are heroes or it’s just not addressed, perhaps because of the [students’] age,” she said. “Whereas in seventh grade, it’s, it’s a bit more likely that a teacher feels comfortable teaching both perspectives.”

Pérez said the State Board of Education approved a Mexican American studies high school elective course in 2018 that she says paints a more accurate portrait of the Texas Rangers than the fourth and seventh grade curricula. Recommended lessons for the course include one on the Porvenir killings. But Pérez said offering Mexican American studies as an elective in high schools is not enough — she wants to see it become integrated into general history curricula.

“I’m not a fan of making Mexican American studies an ‘other’ versus mainstream history,” she said.

Modern issues

The modern Texas Rangers, an investigative agency within the state’s Department of Public Safety, evolved from the historical police force but no longer carries out the same duties. Today, Rangers focus on investigations as a unit within DPS.

Swanson said there is still much progress to be made in terms of diversifying the force and reckoning with its complex history. Of the agency’s 157 members, there are currently seven Black, 31 Hispanic and four women rangers, according to a statement from the agency.

“As late as the 1960s, 1970s, there were many Rangers — high ranking Rangers — who were quite hostile to the idea of having women and Blacks [as members], especially,” Swanson said.

Swanson said the Rangers were “quite tardy” in diversifying their ranks.

“The first African American [Ranger] was in 1988 and that was only after an NAACP complaint,” he said. “The first two women were in 1993 and that was when Ann Richards was governor and so she pushed very strong for that. The first Hispanic or Latino Ranger of the modern era was in 1969.”

The modern Texas Rangers said they value diversity in the agency.

“The department is in continuous pursuit of qualified minorities and women to serve as Texas Rangers,” a spokesperson from the agency wrote in an email Wednesday.

Valencia now lives just outside El Paso, where she says anti-Latino violence is alive and well, especially in the aftermath of the Walmart shooting that killed 23 people and injured 23 others just over a year ago. She said she hopes the Rangers will publicly apologize for their history of racism and xenophobia against Latinos and other communities, which she said they have not yet addressed.

“If they want to keep their name, keep it, but you need to step up and say, ‘this is what we did in the past, and we apologize,’” she said. “That’s what I want. I want them to apologize for what they did to all those people.”

Copyright 2020 Texas Tribune. All rights reserved.

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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