Phangiso hopes to be the main man at last
Aaron Phangiso's opportunity for a regular run in the South Africa ODI side may finally come during their triangular series in the Caribbean but he will face competition from uncapped Tabraiz Shamsi, who is on an audition of sorts for a long-term place. The pair make up two of the trio of spinners in the squad with veteran legspinner Imran Tahir certain to be one of the leaders of the attack.
"The fact that Russell [Domingo] and the selectors chose to go with three spinners means there's a chance of two spinners always playing," Phangiso said at the team's departure in Johannesburg. "Hopefully if conditions allow in West Indies, I can maybe get a bit of a run."
South Africa are expecting slow, turning pitches, and have picked their squad accordingly, but they are also using the series to explore options for the future.
"The wickets are not quick, they don't offer much lateral movement and the spinners, particularly in Guyana, play a big role," Domingo said. "We want to have a look at Shamsi. This is an opportunity to play him, particularly with Imran getting to the twilight stages of his career, it will be good to have another wrist-spinner."
Shamsi sprung to prominence at last year's Caribbean Premier League, where he was the joint fifth-highest wicket-taker. He went on to have a successful home season, finishing as the leading spinner in the first-class competition and the Titans' fourth-most successful bowler in T20s, and earned an IPL contract at Royal Challengers Bangalore. In a dream conclusion, he was added to South Africa's ODI squad. With his range of variations he is considered the natural successor to Tahir, even though Phangiso has been waiting in the wings.
In short, that is the story of Phangiso's career: a test of patience. He spent several seasons as a workhorse at the North West provincial team and then the Lions before catching the eye at the Champions League T20 in 2012. Four years later, he has still not been able to nail down a permanent place in the national side but appears sporadically in limited-overs' matches, when Tahir does not play. He also had a difficult 2015-16 summer, headlined by alcohol abuse, imitating drug use on live television, and having his bowling action declared illegal. He has since been disciplined by CSA, remodelled his action and made a successful return, and is hoping for a fresh start.
"It was a bit tough. It was four months of newspapers - Phangi this, Phangi that - but I've got a strong family, very Christian people. That helped a lot," Phangiso said. "There's a lot of lessons you learn from those type of things, and a lot of the time the public get a story that's not 100% accurate. But the fact that the story is out there and people think some other stuff about you, obviously you are going to learn something."
After Phangiso's life lessons, he also got something of an education in how to secure a spot in the national team: be more aggressive. Phangiso was part of a group of South African cricketers who travelled to a spin camp in India earlier this month and the biggest takeaway for him was the difference in approach to slower bowling.
"What I got out of it was to shift my mentality from defensive to more attacking," Phangiso said. "I've been a defensive spinner all my career. I've always kept it tight, tight, tight - and then get the wickets with pressure. But now maybe I'll look to attack a bit, put fielders in attacking positions."
West Indies should be an ideal place to do that, if he is given the opportunity. South Africa have given themselves plenty of choice with ten bowling options in the touring party. Five of them - Kyle Abbott, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell - are quicks with Tahir, Phangiso, Shamsi, JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien the slower bowlers.
With all that competition, all Phangiso can hope is that he gets enough of an opportunity to show what he us capable of. "For me to get a chance on other tours was hard because Imran performed very well. We almost went with the mentality of one spinner and backing the seamers. But this tour will maybe be different," he said. "I'm hoping to put in some good performances and to get some consistency."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent