In the second of our series on the Proteas players, The Daily Vox team spoke to right-arm bowler, Shabnim Ismail.
Ismail made her debut for the Proteas in 2007 at the age of 18, just a year after she made her domestic debut for Western Province. She initially started off playing with the boy’s cricket team as her school didn’t have a separate girls’ team.
Speaking about her cricket journey, Ismail says: “I started off playing soccer at school. One day some girl walked up to me while I was playing soccer with all of the boys on the field… and said do I play cricket and I said yes. And that’s how I started. [We] went to the nets together and I started playing for Primrose Cricket Club.”
Her favourite thing about the sport is the adrenaline and the fact that her family plays the game as well.
Ismail is one of the fastest women bowlers in the world and is South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker and yet she almost didn’t even start bowling first.
“Well when I first started bowling, I never liked bowling at all. I always liked batting so whenever they bowled me out I said I don’t want to play anymore. I said I’m taking my equipment and leaving. I’m taking my bat and I’m leaving. So after that I decided I must stop being lazy and I must start bowling as well because cricket is not only about batting. I started bowling and I started enjoying it more. Because you know a batter only has one job and as a bowler there’s lots of overs and lots of balls to actually get someone out and that’s when I started enjoying bowling.”
Regarding the fact that cricket is seen as male-dominated, Ismail says: “You know, I always tell everyone that it’s always going to be a male-dominated sport. But in sport as well you can see the sixes that women have been hitting just proves that it’s not just a male-dominated sport. You can take males on as well. And we always knew it was going to be a male sport but for us just going out there and proving to all the people all around the world especially men that you know women can do exactly the same thing that men can do. And sometimes even better so that just proves the point around the world and to men especially.”
However, Ismail admits there are challenges to being a woman in sport.
“Well it’s always hard because you want to get married and you want to have kids, you want to have a boyfriend but it’s always hard travelling around the world. So it’s always finding that right connection with the person that you fall in love with. And especially travelling for me as a Muslim person.”
However, she said her parent’s and late grandfather were always supportive of the things she has done in her career especially when they saw how dedicated she was.
“Those two are my role models so just for them to support me in every way they did, it’s just immense appreciation from them.”
As for her favourite player, it has to be Proteas men’s bowler, Dale Steyn who is also her role model.
“I love Dale Steyn. He is my favourite player. Just his aggression, his passion for the game. Just everything about him.”
Her favourite place to play is right here in Johannesburg.
“I love playing at Wanderers in Johannesburg. That’s my favourite place to play, basically because that’s my home ground. And that is my favourite ground as well. Because I moved three years ago to Johannesburg. I enjoyed playing there. Just the bounce, a true bounce especially for bowlers. It’s always a good toss to win at Wanderers not matter how the conditions are.”
Ismail says while she does listen to music to get her head in the game before a match, the thing that really pumps her is listening to her mom’s voice telling her how to do it and to just go out there and enjoy herself.
Her advice for young people wanting to get into cricket: “It’s always a nice thing to keep kids active and just to go out there and live your dream. I just tell all of the kids even the girls that I am coaching at the moment… to live your dream and go out there and do your best.”
Finally, as for her own aspirations: “We want to win the T20 World Cup, and for me I want to be one of the top three bowlers in the world.”