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County schools ready for fall sports schedules

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County schools ready for fall sports schedules

The 2010s were full of memorable moments for Kenosha County boys basketball.

The decade began with Quardell Young leading Bradford to back-to-back WIAA Division-1 sectional finals in 2010 and 2011. The middle of the decade featured Andre Brown and his Indian Trail teammates making their own memorable run to the sectional finals in 2015.

Individual accomplishments also marked the decade.

In 2016, DeAndre Johns broke the great Nick Van Exel’s St. Joseph career scoring record and Wilmot’s Latrell Glass dazzled Delavan-Darien with a 49-point game. Wilmot’s Bobby Brenner averaged 25.5 points per game and scored a staggering 1,248 points in just two seasons from 2014-16, and Bradford’s De’Monte Nelson averaged 28.7 points per game in 2017-18 and with 1,641 points broke the school’s career scoring mark of Jeff Cohen, which had stood since 1957.

The decade ended on a memorable note, too, for different reasons.

The 2019-20 Tremper squad streaked to the sectional finals and was a victory away from the program’s first State Tournament berth since 2001, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a painful halt to the Trojans’ remarkable run before they could finish it.

That’s a lot of memories for a decade, but there’s one that stands above the rest.

Really, could there be another choice?

In 2017-18, Central rode the sterling starting five of Jaeden Zackery, Adam Simmons, Dylan Anderson, Cooper Brinkman and Nic Frederick to the WIAA Division-2 State Tournament, the first state berth for the county since St. Joseph in 2003 — Tremper and St. Joseph both went in 2001 — and the only state appearance of the 2010s for a county team.

It’s hard to imagine a county team playing more beautiful basketball than the Falcons did on March 10, 2018, when they dismantled Monona Grove, 76-55, in a sectional final at Oregon for the first State Tournament berth in program history.

The ride came to an end the next weekend in a hard-fought 75-63 state semifinal loss to Kaukauna, but that season came in the middle of a stupendous three-year run from 2016-19 in which Central went 65-13, won two Southern Lakes Conference titles and and reached sectionals three times.

At the center of that was Zackery, the talented guard who controlled games on both ends of the floor and was a key cog for the Falcons all three of those seasons.

For that, Zackery has been named the Kenosha News County Player of the Decade for boys basketball. The 10-player All-Decade team was selected by Kenosha News sports editor Mike Johnson.

Capsules on the second five players, in alphabetical order, are below. Capsules on the first five players appeared in Sunday’s edition of the News. Each player’s senior year is in parentheses. Available statistics are provided and were compiled via records from the News and WisSports.net.

De’Monte Nelson, Bradford (2017-18)

Honors: Second-team All-County (2015-16); first-team All-County (2016-17 and 2017-18); second-team All-Conference (2016-17); first-team All-Southeast Conference (2017-18); Co-Southeast Conference Player of the Year (2017-18); Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division-1 All-State honorable mention (2017-18); Associated Press All-State honorable mention (2017-18).

Lowdown: With 1,641 career points, Nelson broke the Red Devils’ career scoring mark set by Jeff Cohen from 1954-57. … One of the most prolific scorers in county annals, he finished with a career average of 20 points per game over four varsity seasons, and his 28.7 per game during his senior season of 2017-18 led the Southeast Conference and was 12th in the state. … Combined over his junior and senior years, compiled 35 games of at least 20 points, 13 of 30 or more and two of 40 or more. … Scored a career-high 41 against Wilmot on 1-2-18. … Led Bradford to a 16-8 overall record and an 11-3 Southeast Conference mark during his senior year. … Played the 2018-19 season at NJCAA Division I Pensacola (Fla.) State College, averaging 11.3 points over 27 games.

Memorable: Prior to a Southeast Conference game against Franklin at the Bradford Fieldhouse on 12-15-17, Nelson was honored with a commemorative ball for surpassing the 1,000-point mark for his career. He then went out and scored 21 points in the first half and 28 overall and banked in a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer in the Red Devils’ 74-71 victory.

Quotable: “I was looking forward to playing JC. Earlier in the year, he told me he’s the only one that can guard me. He made that a tweet on Twitter, so I was looking forward to playing against him. We always have friendly ‘convos.’ Me and him, he’s like like my best friend. It was fun, kind of getting the crowd into it and watching almost the NBA All-Star Game, or whatever. You see the guys play one-on-one, or bucket for bucket. He’s a great player, and I’m a great offensive superstar. It’s always fun with me and him playing against each other.” De’Monte Nelson, after scoring a game-high 36 points and battling head-to-head with Racine Prairie star JC Butler in the 2018 MARK Your Moment Showcase Kenosha County vs. Racine County All-Star Game.

Lucas Wendt, Shoreland Lutheran (2015-16)

Honors: Second-team All-County (2013-14); first-team All-County (2014-15); All-County honorable mention (2015-16); second-team All-Metro Classic Conference (2013-14 and 2015-16); first-team All-Metro Classic Conference (2014-15).

Lowdown: The talented Wendt almost certainly would’ve reached 1,000 career points but was limited to just 11 games during his senior season due to a broken thumb. Still, he scored 809 points and averaged 15.3 points per game for his career. … Was named both first-team All-County and All-Metro Classic Conference as a junior and — despite the injury — was named second-team All-Metro Classic and honorable mention All-County after averaging 12.3 points over 11 games as a senior. … Had 19 games of 20 or more points for his career, three of 30 or more and one of 40 or more. … Scored 33 against Racine Prairie on 12-19-14 and a career-high 41 against Reuther on 2-22-16. … Played one season at NCAA Division II Bemidji State (Minn.), averaging 7.2 points over 24 games as a freshman in 2016-17.

Memorable: After initially being told his senior season was over after just three games, Wendt made it back and returned with a bang. He scored 28 points in his first game back against Saint Thomas More on 2-9-16 and 32 in his third game back against St. Joseph on 2-16-16, as the Pacers notched a 77-68 home win over their county rivals.

Quotable: “Obviously I was happy for him. I’ve had some kids get hurt via other sports and not be able to play, a few of my own kids included. It’s tough for a high school kid who looks forward to something like that. In Lucas’ case, basketball is his thing.” Shoreland coach Paul Strutz, on Wendt returning from injury late in his senior season.

Tre’ Williams, Central (2016-17)

Honors: All-County honorable mention (2014-15); first-team All-County (2015-16 and 2016-17); first-team All-Southern Lakes Conference (2015-16 and 2016-17); Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year (2016-17).

Lowdown: Williams was a key figure during Central’s turnaround over the decade, as the Falcons went 47-28 (.623 winning percentage) with two Southern Lakes Conference titles, three WIAA Division-2 regional final appearances and one WIAA Division-2 sectional final appearance over Williams’ three varsity seasons. … Scored 20 or more points 20 times in his career and 30 or more twice. … Scored a career-high 34 against Wilmot on 12-15-15. … Averaged 16.5 points in four postseason games during the Falcons’ run to their first sectional final appearance in program history during his senior season, including 22 in a sectional semifinal victory over Wilmot on 3-9-17. … Appeared in seven games as a freshman at NCAA Division III UW-Whitewater in 2017-18.

Memorable: Williams scored 22 points to lead Central to a 74-43 win over county rival Wilmot on 3-8-17 in a WIAA Division-2 sectional semifinal at Burlington, as the Falcons earned their first sectional final berth in program history.

Quotable: “Making history is just a great feeling. We all are so excited. It’s a humbling achievement. We get to move on, and we’re not done yet.” Tre’ Williams, after scoring 22 points as Central beat Wilmot on 3-9-17 to advance to the first WIAA Division-2 sectional final in program history.

Quardell Young, Bradford (2010-11)

SEASON;GAMES;POINTS;REBOUNDS;ASSISTS;STEALS

2010-11;25;440;116;108;45

CAREER;73;934;328;235;147

PER GAME;;12.8;4.5;3.2;2.0

Honors: First-team All-County (2009-10 and 2010-11); first-team All-Southeast Conference (2009-10 and 2010-11); third-team Milwaukee Journal Sentinel All-Area (2010-11); Associated Press All-State honorable mention (2010-11).

Lowdown: Young was the consummate pass-first point guard and led the Red Devils to back-to-back WIAA Division-1 sectional final appearances in 2010 and 2011, including a school-record 20 wins in 2010-11. … During his junior of 2009-10, Bradford won its first conference title since 1978-79, notched its first season sweep of Tremper since 1990-91 and reached its first sectional final since 1989. … Could score when he needed to, totaling 934 points over three varsity seasons, including 16 games of at least 20 points between his junior and senior years. … Matched his career high of 26 in back-to-back games during his junior year, against Racine Case on 2-16-10 and against Franklin on 2-19-10. … His career numbers were remarkably balanced, as he averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals. … Went on to a stellar career at UW-Whitewater, earning first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors following his junior and senior years, as well as first-team All-American honors and the Central Region Player of the Year award by D3hoops.com following his senior year. He helped the Warhawks win NCAA Division III national titles in 2012 and 2014.

Memorable: Technically, this moment didn’t occur in high school, but how can you leave out a national championship-winning shot? On 3-22-14 in the D-III national title game against Williams College in Salem, Va., Young sliced through defenders down three-quarters of the court and delivered a do-or-die layup, was fouled and made the free throw with 0.9 seconds left to give Whitewater a 75-73 win and the title.

Quotable: “I saw him his junior year in high school, and I loved him there. We recruited him all last year. We just feel very fortunate to get him. He’s a great kid. He works hard, he wants to get better, he’s a great athlete.” UW-Whitewater men’s basketball coach Pat Miller, on Young during his freshman season with the Warhawks, in which they won the NCAA Division III national title.

Jaeden Zackery, Central (2018-19)

Player of the Decade

SEASON;GAMES;POINTS;REBOUNDS;ASSISTS;STEALS

2017-18;27;467;128;101;99

2018-19;25;537;136;124;61

CAREER;78;1,250;350;289;215

PER GAME;;16.0;4.5;3.7;2.8

Honors: Honorable mention All-County (2016-17); first-team All-County (2017-18 and 2018-19); first-team All-Southern Lakes Conference (2017-18 and 2018-19); Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year (2018-19); Associated Press All-State honorable mention (2017-18 and 2018-19); Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division-2 first-team All-State (2018-19 and 2019-20).

Lowdown: The Falcons reached unprecedented heights during Zackery’s three-year varsity tenure, compiling a 65-13 overall record (.833 winning percentage) and a 37-5 record in the Southern Lakes Conference (.881 winning percentage). They reached the WIAA Division-2 sectionals all three seasons after never reaching them before and won two SLC titles. Zackery led Central to its first State Tournament appearance during his junior year of 2017-18, the only state appearance for a county team during the decade. … Zackery’s 1,250 career points rank second in school history, just 15 behind 1989 graduate Tim Cates. … Reached his career high of 34 points twice, on 1-13-18 against Bradford and on 2-8-19 against Waukesha West. … Between his junior and senior seasons had 25 games of 20 points or more. … Didn’t go to a college program after leaving Central, instead opting to play a season at Scotland Campus Prep School in Pennsylvania. He’s drawing interest from NCAA Division I programs.

Memorable: Zackery’s defining performance came in the Falcons’ 76-55 dismantling of Monona Grove in a sectional final on 3-10-18, as he notched 20 points, three rebounds, three assists and a whopping eight steals to lead Central to state. He then led all scorers with 21 points and added 11 rebounds, two assists and four steals in Central’s 75-63 loss to Kaukauna in the state semifinals.

Quotable: “He was upset from the Elkhorn (sectional semifinal) game when he didn’t score (a first-half field goal). I looked at him in the locker room. He didn’t look (back). Usually he says something, or looks at me or winks. He didn’t give me a look. I was like, ‘All right, he’s ready.’” Central assistant coach Marcus Zackery, Jaeden’s dad, on Jaeden’s performance against Monona Grove in the 2018 sectional finals.

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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wwe crown jewel results

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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