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Valone Gets First-Ever Win At Eriez | News, Sports, Jobs

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Valone Gets First-Ever Win At Eriez | News, Sports, Jobs

Teammates Chad Valone, far right, and John Volpe, far left, finished first and second, respectively, in the 25-lap super late model feature Saturday night at Eriez Speedway. Valone is the owner of both cars. The win was Valone’s first career victory at Eriez. Both Valone and Volpe live in the Jamestown area. Pictured in between Valone and Volpe are Cooper and Joe Shelters.
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HAMMETT, Pa. — Yet another beautiful summer afternoon greeted Eriez Speedway fans entering the gates for the $1,500-to-win special for the Nic Dit Trucking RUSH Late Models.

When the featured event was complete it was Jeremy Wonderling claiming the winner’s purse for his first victory of the season.

In other divisions Chad Valone picked up his first Mill Run Collision Super Late Model win at Eriez; Mike McGee got to Victory Lane in the Waterford Hotel E-Mod finale; Bob Vogt captured his first Johnson’s Car Care and Collision Economod win; and Mark Lawrence won the L&D Tree Service Challenger night-capper. Lawrence’s win was the sixth in a row at various area speedways.

The Curtze Food Service Street Stocks had the night off. During intermission a lucky child was awarded a miniature ATV in a random drawing made possible by E-Mod driver Mike Eschrich, who purchased it with winnings from a recent victory at a local speedway. He noted it was his way of “giving back to racing.”

The Johnson’s Car Care & Collision Economod feature was the first of the evening, brought to Mark Matthews’ green flag by Nate Young and Zack Lenart. Young led the first time by the line with Lenart, Vogt, Dustin Demattia and Mitch Wright following. On the front straight as the cars completed lap two Brad Boyd spun, peeling the tire off the left rear wheel. Before the race was again green, Brian Toto stalled his car on the back straight, delaying the restart, then, at green, Pat Drennan spun on the front straight. After the next green, 2018 champion Matt Alexander got sideways in turn one with eventually the cars of Andrew Pisarchick, Steve Simon, Tyler Davis, Cody Stronghart, and Jason Brightman piling into the current points leader.

At green Young led Lenart, Vogt, Wright, and Demattia through lap five when Boyd and Toto spun in turn two. Vogt was second at lap six with Gary Olson up to fifth. Young’s time at the front came to an end in turn four on lap seven when he appeared to lose power, slowing to a stop. Vogt then grabbed the lead at green over Lenart, Demattia, Wright, and Kyle Layton. Demattia got to second at eight and Layton to fourth at nine laps complete as Dominic DePonceau spun in turn two. At lap 10, Jarrett Young came into the top five. The front four remained static through the end of the race with Vogt winning over Demattia, Lenart, Layton and Jarrett Young. For Vogt, it was a very emotional win since it was his first win since his young son, Trent, tragically passed away early in the 2019 season.

At lap one of the Mill Run Collision Super Late Model feature Wonderling, John Lobb and Chad Valone ran the backstretch three-wide with Valone leading at the completion of the lap over Lobb and Wonderling with former class champion Chris Hackett fourth and John Volpe fifth. Hackett was third at lap two. The order remained the same until lap seven when Volpe breezed into second. Valone, meanwhile, was pulling away every lap, leading by a quarter-lap at eight with Volpe, Darrell Bossard, Lobb and 2018 champion Dave Hess Jr. filling out the top five. Andy Boozel came into the top five at lap 10, then to fourth at lap 12. The halfway order was Valone, Volpe, Bossard, Boozel and Hess. At 14, in turns three and four, Hackett slowed dramatically, putting the race under yellow and erasing Valone’s lead. That didn’t bother Valone as he simply pulled back out to the lead, winning in his first appearance of 2020 at Eriez. Volpe wound up second with Hess third, Bossard fourth and Boozel fifth.

The Nic Dit Trucking RUSH Late Models had Gary Troyer and Josh Ferry on row one. Ferry led the way through lap one with Troyer, Matt Sipes, Wonderling and Brian Larson following. At two laps Jon Rivers spun on the front straight. After green, yellow was again necessary before another lap was in the books when DJ Krug, Ward Schell, Kyle Zimmerman, David Parker, and Joe Long got together in turn four. After another green, Jeremy Wonderling took over up front with Ferry now second over Sipes, Troyer, and Bud Watson. Parker and Alex Haight spun at lap four, then racing went well, with Wonderling building a solid lead of half a straight by lap seven. At halfway it was Wonderling, Ferry, Sipes, Watson and Billy Henry as the top five. Yellow again appeared at lap 11 when Scott Dellahoy spun in turn two. After green Ferry challenged for the lead through turns three and four but Wonderling prevailed. The order remained Wonderling, Ferry, Sipes, Henry and now Darrell Bossard through to lap 20 of the scheduled 25 when Bossard got by Henry for fourth. Matt Latta was next to Sipes for fifth at 21 laps. At the checkers it was Wonderling picking up the $1,500 with Ferry second, Henry third, Bossard fourth and Latta fifth.

The Waterford Hotel E-Mod feature started with Chad Carlson and Steve Simon up front. Carlson led Simon, Troy Johnson, McGee and Ken Zimmer through lap one then, on lap two, Mike Eschrich, Nick Mohawk, Cale Crocker and Brian Mohawk all wrecked coming out of turn two. Tim Peterson was also apparently involved, but tried to drive back to the pit but came to a stop until in turn four, with heavy front-end damage. Nick Mohawk went to the pit but returned in time to rejoin the event. Eschrich needed towed from the scene, done for the night. At the green flag Dave Lamphere and Zach Johnson got together on the front straight, negating the start. When the race again was green Carlson was still leading with Troy Johnson now second, Simon third, McGee fourth and Zimmer fifth. At four laps Troy Johnson bounced off the front wall, losing two spots. At five laps, Adam Ashcroft, last week’s winner, was fifth. McGee took second at seven laps and came by Carlson for the lead at nine when yellow slowed the race for Kevin Smith, spun on the backstretch. The halfway order was McGee, Carlson, Simon, Zimmer and Troy Johnson. Ashcroft was back in fifth at 11 laps with Zimmer and Carlson side by side for second at lap 12. McGee was speeding away to a quarter-lap lead at lap 13. At 14 it was McGee, Zimmer, Carlson, Ashcroft and Simon. Ashcroft and Carlson were even at lap 15 for third. The final yellow was at lap 17 when Troy Johnson and Steve Rex spun in turn four. At the finish McGee was the winner, followed by Zimmer, Ashcroft, Simon and John Boyd. Carlson slipped all the way back to seventh at the finish.

The L&D Challenger Division had 40 entries for their regular-length card of events. After four heats and two “B” mains, the field was narrowed to 24-starters with Zack Eller, a former champion, and Jeff Nunemaker on the front row. Eller led lap one with Chris Horton, the current points leader, second, Nunemaker third, Andrew Smith fourth, and last week’s winner, Lawrence fifth. Lawrence got to fourth at lap two, then at lap three was even with Horton for second at the line when two pieces of debris were spotted in turn one, making caution necessary. The order for the restart was Eller, Lawrence, Horton, Holden Heineman and Andrew Smith. Tenth-starting Tommy LaBarbera broke into the top five at lap six. Yellow was again shown at lap seven, this time for a wheel rolling up the back straight from the Rod Brit car. Over the final laps, Lawrence came to the front and was unchallenged, cruising to his sixth consecutive win at area tracks. Behind Lawrence at the checkers were Horton, Heineman, Eller and LaBarbera.

Mill Run Collision Super Late Models

Heat 1: John Volpe, Jeremy Wonderling, Darrell Bossard, Breyton Santee, Dutch Davies, Matt Urban, Khole Wanzer

Heat 2: Dave Hess Jr, Chad Valone, Steve Kania, Andy Boozel, Nate Hill, Anthony Marotto

Heat 3: Chris Hackett, John Lobb, Wendell Pinckney, Bob Dorman, Dave Lyon, Bump Hedman

Feature: Chad Valone, John Volpe, Dave Hess Jr, Darrell Bossard, Andy Boozel, John Lobb, Dave Lyon, Breyton Santee, Dutch Davies, Steve Kania, Anthony Marotto, Nate Hill, Khole Wanzer, Wendall Pinckney, Bump Hedman, Bob Dorman, Chris Hackett, Matt Urban, Jeremy Wonderling

Nit Dit Trucking RUSH Late Models

Heat 1: Bud Watson, Brian Larson, Billy Henry, Alex Haight, Steve Houser, Breyton Santee, John John, Scott Dellahoy

Heat 2: David Parker, Matthew Sipes, Matt Latta, Ward Schell, Jon Rivers, Kohler Wanzer, Darrin Waldron

Heat 3: Jeremy Wonderling, Josh Ferry, Darrell Bossard, Scott Gurdak, Jared Kane, Paul Norman, Jason Genco

Heat 4: Joe Long, Gary Troyer, D J Krug, Kyle Zimmerman, Chad Clement, Brad Stoeger, Gary Young’s (DNS)

B-Main: Khole Wanzer, Scott Dellahoy, Jason Genco, Breyton Santee, Paul Norman, Brad Stoeger, Gary Youngs

Feature: Jeremy Wonderling, Josh Ferry, Billy Henry, Darrell Bossard, Matt Latta, Jason Genco, Matthew Sipes, Bud Watson, Breyton Santee, Khole Wanzer, Jared Kane, Kyle Zimmerman, Jon Rivers, Gary Troyer, Chad Clement, Scott Dellahoy, Brian Larson, Scott Gurdak, Steve Houser, David Parker, D J Krug, Alex Haight, Joe Long, Ward Schell

Waterford Hotel E-Mods

Heat 1: Eric Reinwald, Adam Ashcroft, John Boyd, Butch Southwell, Zach Johnson, Nick Mohawk, Mark Titus

Heat 2: Dennis Lunger, Troy Johnson, Steve Sornberger, Tim Rockwell, Chris Peterson, David Warrior, Cale Rockwell

Heat 3: Ken Zimmer, Steve Simon, Tim Peterson, Kevin Smith, Brian Mohawk, Dave Lamphere, Randy Hall

Heat 4: Mike McGee, Chad Carlson, Mike Eschrich, Steve Rex, Joel Watson, Brady Westfall, Jarred Silvis

B-Main: Nick Mohawk, Mark Titus, Cale Crocker, Dave Lamphere, Randy Hall, Brady Westfall, Jarred Silvis, David Warrior

Feature: Mike McGee, Ken Zimmer, Adam Ashcroft, Steve Simon, John Boyd, Joel Watson, Chad Carlson, Dennis Lunger, Butch Southwell, Eric Reinwald, Nick Mohawk, Tim Rockwell, Steve Sornberger, Chris Peterson, Steve Rex, Troy Johnson Kevin Smith, Mark Titus, Cale Crocker, Tim Peterson, Mike Eschrich, Zach Johnson, Brian Mohawk, Dave Lamphere

Johnson’s Car Care & Collision Economod

Heat 1: Mitchell Wright, Dustin Demattia, Gary Olson, Brad Boyd, Jason Brightman, Cody Stronghart, Pat Drennan, Dennis Dellinger, Gary Sullivan

Heat 2: Bob Vogt, Zack Lenart, Kyle Layton, Jarett Young, Brian Toto, Steve Simon, Andrew Pisarchick, Brody Hill

Heat 3: Matt Alexander, Nate Young, Jeremy Double, Garrett Calvert, Justin Chaddock, Tyler Davis, Dominic DePonceau, Dennis Asel

Feature: Bob Vogt, Dustin Demattia, Zack Lenart, Kyle Layton, Jarett Young, Mitchell Wright, Matt Alexander, Jeremy Double, Gary Olson, Brad Boyd, Jason Brightman, Brian Toto, Dominic DePonceau, Pat Drennan, Nate Young, Justin Chaddock, Garrett Calvert, Cody Stronghart, Steve Simon, Tyler Davis, Dennis Asel, Brody Hill, Chad Carlson (DNS), Andrew Pisarchick (DNS), Gary Sullivan (DNS)

L&D Tree Service Challengers

Heat 1: Holden Heineman, Andrew Smith, Joe Mason, Body McClintock, Brandon Huffman, Brandon Maratto, Ricky Hauser, David Moller, Rachel Moller, Emily Garrett

Heat 2: Chris Horton, Todd Hanlon, Tommy LaBarbera, Nicholas Reed, James Weigle, Nick Eck, Austyn Richards, Bob Leonard, Randy Vrooman, James Glover

Heat 3: Mark Lawrence, Jeff Nunemaker, Wes Stull, Andy Proper, Tyler Walters, Dalton Eggleston, Mitchell Rex, Jonathan Seekings, Charles McClintock, Jack Warrior

Heat 4: Kevin Covell, Zack Eller, Rod Brit, Jordan Melice, Joe Lindberg, Phillip Birt, Gary Youngs, Kasey Markham, Amy Lewis, Jasmine Markham

B-Main 1: Austyn Richards, Bob Leonard, Nick Eck, Ricky Hauser, Randy Vrooman

B-Main 2: Mitchell Rex, Charles McClintock, Jack Warrior, Jonathan Seekings, Phillip Brit, Kasey Markham, Jasmine Markham, Amy Lewis, Dalton Eggleston

Feature: Mark Lawrence, Chris Horton, Holden Heineman, Zack Eller, Tommy LaBarbera, Andrew Smith, Tyler Walters, Wes Stull, Toss Hanlon, Joe Mason, Nicholas Reed, Jordan Melice, Austyn Richards, Charles McClintock, Brandon Huffman, James Weigle, Kevin Covell, Mitchell Rex, Bob Leonard, Andy Proper, Joe Lindberg, Jeff Nunemaker, Body McClintock, Rod Birt

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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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