Shabnim Ismail makes life easier for Women’s cricket’s batters for times to come!
Shabnim Ismail has retired from international cricket after taking 317 wickets during her career. She is the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in both One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is).
More pace than Natalie Sciver, Jhulan Goswami and even her own compatriot, Marizanne Kapp.
More one day international wickets than Ellyse Perry. More T20 international wickets than Shikha Pandey and Suzie Bates put together.
The enviable ability to generate extra bounce on seemingly batting friendly surfaces. The die hard quality of hitting the stumps or making contact with the batters’ stumps in whatever game situation, whether or not in her Proteas favour.
Faster than even Lauren Bell although much shorter in frame when compared to anyone, whether a Stafanie Taylor, Bell herself, the great Jhulan or the inimitable Perry.
But a rampaging career that’s come to a sudden halt- and for good measure- akin to a completely unforeseeable mechanical fault in a turbo hybrid Formula 1 car engine.
That’s despite there being no injury scares or others concerns.
Shabnim Ismail why did you do what you just did?
There are athletes in world cricket. Then there are quality athletes in the sport and then, those who are, quite simply, irreplaceable.
If you are an ardent cricket fan or a deep supporter of the women’s game, then probably you’ll have no hesitation, whatsoever, in placing Shabnim Ismail in this last compartment.
For it belongs to the elite names who’ve given so much to the game and with much vigor or and mental fortitude.
If today, the women’s game has come such a long way, then with much respect to its pursuers of excellence, it hasn’t come a massive mile only thanks to the prowess of a Kaur, Mandhana, Mithali, Healy, Perry, Devine or Dottin alone.
The women’s game has hit the middle wicket of doubters and needlessly scathing critics for whom, it was, if no more, then at best, merely an extension of the men’s game at the back of the electrifying bowling talent of Shabnim Ismail.
She brought a sense of energy and emotion to the game, exemplifying the Proteas unit given her tireless love for putting in the hard yards for a team that’s perhaps often burdened with unreal pressure.
Her high arm, clean-as-a-whistle action and the rhythmic run up often allowed the Proteas women’s sides to defend totals under 200 in ODI’s and challenged some of the most authoritative names in women’s international cricket.
To a hugely balanced side that benefitted from the sheer class of a Du Preez and Van Niekerk, and flexed muscle on the pure talent of a Lee and Wolvaardt, Ismail brightened the hope that a game wasn’t lost for as a long as she had a few overs left in the tank from which to knock of her opponent’s stumps.
And she did that giving it everything to the Protea cause, sparking its fire, rejoicing like some wild tigress having just hunted a prey, as if the one humbled had been neutralised by the clench of teeth.
World cricket- if not her opponents- will now miss the pure energy and emotion that Shabnim Ismail brought to the cricket ground, decorating the template of a contest with exemplary zest for competitiveness and the will to prevail.
Where else can one find that instinct for domination now that the famous speedster from Cape Town has hung her boots?
But perhaps what also makes sense in celebrating the woman hailed as the fastest in the women’s game is that Shabnim called time on her career only after playing some 241 international games for her motherland.
Arguably speaking, more important than that impressive tally of wickets – and she claimed no fewer than 317- is the fact that at a time where South Africa could only have been restricted to the great fast bowling talents of Steyn and Donald, Shabnim Ismail came and furthered the discussion.
In so doing, she actually highlighted the importance of great fast bowling to the Proteas women’s national team.
She did that and more whilst enjoying what can only be called a massive career that walked long legs covering a huge distance of over a decade and a half.
So committed was Ismail to the cause of Proteas cricket that she perhaps didn’t even think of it as being necessary to touch a milestone by playing nine more games, which would’ve enabled her to wear 250 international caps, jumping off nine stations before her train of massive talent could move any further.
At a time where cricket is making much love to the franchise format, perhaps a necessary medication the sport must undertake for its own longevity, Ismail’s success in white ball cricket signalled prevalence in the very formats that women cricketers had at their disposal, at a time where the Hundred and WIPL had not yet arrived.
She emerged, much like Du Preez, Chetty and Van Niekerk, an intrepid team player.
Ismail’s boots will take massive effort to fill and may never actually be filled until the end.
For these boots have faced ordeals, embraced physical difficulty and draining mental pressure, the classic challenges that confront a fast bowler.
And yet, they’ll inspire a young generation to go all out and achieve glory for the cause of Proteas cricket, a team like no other, composed of talents that are unmatchable.