The recently concluded T20 Global League player draft conducted by Cricket South Africa, had franchise Stellenbosch Monarchs pick No 1 ranked T20 bowler Imad Wasim in the fourth round. At the time of going into print, the franchise had no owner after Brimstone Investment withdrew their bid. This, however, did not stop the team’s management citing Imad’s economy rate as their main reason for singling him out.
Also in the squad’s lineup is another left-arm spinner, South African Tabraiz Shamsi, who as recently as nine days ago, played for the Caribbean Premier League’s St Kitts & Nevis Patriots against Imad Wasim’s Jamaica Tallawahs (St Kitts won by 37 runs). The latter, however, had already returned to Pakistan for the PCB’s much-hyped fitness tests. Like Imad, Tabraiz is a decent middle order batsman too, so it remains to be seen how both will be used effectively in the tournament’s first few matches.
South African pitches generally do not aid spinners – which is why Imran Tahir’s arrival amongst a plethora of fast bowlers, has been heralded with much fanfare. Over the past twelve months, commentators have often asserted to the fact that Imad Wasim tends to contain batsmen without producing much spin. ARY Sports Chief and insightful cricket expert Shahid Hashmi takes a positive approach, “Economy rate is key in shorter format games because if you keep it down, the batsmen always take a chance and give you the opportunity to take wickets. If you don’t keep the economy rate down, you don’t get wickets in clusters.”
To name but two instances, this would particularly ring true for Imad Wasim’s 5-14 against the West Indies in Dubai in September 2016, as well as his Man of the Match 3-21 that aided Jamaica Tallawahs in defeating Guyana Amazon Warriors by nine wickets in the 2016 CPL final.
Acclaimed Cricinfo journalist Osman Samiuddin feels “Since his debut, Imad Wasim has become smarter as a spinner and has obviously worked on it. On slower pitches he has been outstanding and as he was good in England, it’s not to say he hasn’t been successful elsewhere. Economy rates have gone higher in the last 20 years and it’s more important to take wickets than contain runs. Imad, though, does pick up wickets.”
The most valuable observation comes from none other than the best left-arm bowler of all time, Wasim Akram. “I like Imad Wasim’s energy on the field and the fact that he keeps trying. He has the potential to do well in all three departments in all three formats.”
Stellenbosch Monarch’s coach Stephen Fleming and captain Faf Du Plessis have worked together before, in the Indian Premier League’s Chennai Super Kings team. Monarch’s first game will be on the 4th of November against the Johannesburg Giants at the former’s home ground Boland Park – the same ground where in the 2003 World Cup, Wasim Akram became the first One Day International bowler to grab 500 wickets.
In another connection to Pakistan, the Boland Cricket Board gained A-status under the attentive eye of Bob Woolmer. With CSA and the local municipality reportedly adding 20 million rands worth of improvements to the ground, the good news for Imad Wasim is that during the hot South African summer months, the pitch tends to be dry.