WPL 2024: I am blessed to be with the Mumbai Indians team, says pacer Shabnim Ismail

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix”it”—if there was a phrase to describe the Mumbai Indians outfit in the Women’s Premier League ahead of the 2024 auction, it would be this. When the team then went on to acquire South African pacer, Shabnim Ismail, the question was where would she fit?

The then-defending champion already had an enviable overseas arsenal with the likes of Hayley Matthews, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Amelia Kerr, Issy Wong, and Chloe Tyron in the mix.

Mumbai Indians ceded its crown, not making it to the final in the 2024 edition. Despite a disappointing end to a promising season, among the positives for the franchise was Ismail.

After spearheading the attack in the PowerPlay for South Africa for years on end, Ismail did what she does best in Mumbai Indians colours too.

Five out of her eight wickets came within the first six overs, and she did so while maintaining one of the best economy rates in the league. She also bowled the fastest recorded delivery in the women’s game—a 132.1 kmph ripper – in a league fixture against the Delhi Capitals.

Ismail – often called ‘the Demon’ for her adept use of fiery bouncers – spoke to Sportstar on life with the Mumbai Indians, her bowling process, staying motivated post-retirement and more.

Q. What has life been like at the Mumbai Indians?

A: I am really chuffed to be with the MI team. I know that when I first got here, everyone welcomed me with open arms, and I’ve had a blast over time with all the youngsters and all the senior players. So I’m really happy, and I am actually blessed to be with the MI team.

Q. Shabnim, being picked by the Mumbai Indians allows you to share dressing room space with Jhulan Goswami, who you have been up against internationally for a long time. What were your interactions like?

A: I loved working with Gossy. I think she’s one of the legends, and I’ve watched her since I was young. She is one person I looked up to among many other fast bowlers. We spoke about a lot of things in training; it’s more about just making those small tweaks to ensure that I become a bit quicker, maybe running in a bit faster. But I think in the relationship that we have, myself and Goswami, we just understand each other so well, and we both have those morals and values of being disciplined in training. So when we go out in the middle, we just know we need to execute, and if we don’t, we work to ensure that doesn’t always happen. ha

A lot of people don’t understand that we’re also human beings before we’re cricketers. So for me, it’s pretty simple: just going out there and trying to execute as best as you can. I am really happy I’ve had her by my side. She’s always giving me that little tap on the shoulder and motivating me saying, ‘You are the best, and we’ll just go out and display your talent.’

Q: Your captain at the Mumbai Indians, Harmanpreet Kaur, has spoken very highly of you. What was it like to play under her?

A: Oh, I love Harry… I’m not going to lie. She’s one of the comedians on the team. Whenever I see her on the bus, whenever she looks at me, we just have good banter and good laughs. Since joining the MI team, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing under her. She lets me be comfortable under her, and she trusts me with the ball. She just throws me the ball, and I get to set my field and do what I need to do. It’s nice to have a captain who understands you as a player, and that makes you more comfortable when you have the ball in hand. So I’m really happy.

Q. What do you observe in the young Indian players, and which ones have impressed you the most?

A: Oh, I love all the Indian players, especially the young fast bowlers that are coming up. I’ve enjoyed Jinti (Jintimani Kalita) the most. She’s one of the characters on the team. I always tell her, ‘Stop playing around at training, please.’ ‘Can you just focus on what you want to do so that when you go out in the middle, it becomes a lot easier for you as a youngster?’ I was also a youngster at some stage. I still believe I’m a bit young at heart, but yeah, for some of the youngsters, it’s just easier for them to run in and bowl as quickly as they can. While one wants to be quick, you also need to try and be as consistent as you can, and it doesn’t always happen.

It’s just how you execute, how you go back to the drawing board, and how you come out stronger. But Jinti is one of the youngsters on the team that I love helping. She’s one person who always comes to me and says, ‘How do you bowl? Can you help me with the inswinger? Can you help me with the outswinger?’ I’m always there to give my share of knowledge to the youngsters and make sure that when they come to the ground and when they’re under pressure, they know exactly what to do.

I love Harmanpree Kaur. I’m not going to lie. She’s one of the comedians on the team. Whenever I see her on the bus, whenever she looks at me, we just have good banter and good laughs. 

I love Harmanpree Kaur. I’m not going to lie. She’s one of the comedians on the team. Whenever I see her on the bus, whenever she looks at me, we just have good banter and good laughs. 
| Photo Credit:


I love Harmanpree Kaur. I’m not going to lie. She’s one of the comedians on the team. Whenever I see her on the bus, whenever she looks at me, we just have good banter and good laughs. 
| Photo Credit:

Q: What keeps you motivated to continue playing cricket all over the world, more so now after your retirement?

A: For me, it’s really simple. It’s more about keeping fit and doing the hard yards behind the scenes, and I don’t think anything has changed now that I’ve stopped playing international cricket. I still have that attitude of wanting to be the best, wanting to be the quickest in the world. So the focus now is more on the mental side of the game. I’m still as competitive as I always have been since I started playing cricket, and I’m obviously trying to work a bit harder. Obviously, for the SA (South Africa), you had a contract when you had to wake up in the morning and train. But now, for me, it’s like I still have that passion. I still want to be the greatest in the world. So for me, it’s pretty simple: having that goal, having that passion, and just waking up and making sure I’m doing all the right things.

Q: For pacers, particularly, speed and fitness are hard to maintain as one grows older. What does your diet and exercise regimen look like, and is it geared towards maintaining your pace?

A: To be honest, with a lot of youngsters out there, I’m not sure if I should say this, but I actually hate running. The only time I run is when I’m running to bowl, which is just a rhythm thing. But yeah, so now and then I have a running session, which is not more than 3kms. I am mentally strong, and I know what I want to achieve. As a youngster growing up, I always wanted to be the fastest bowler in the world, and that night (vs Delhi Capitals) I was more angry and disappointed that I couldn’t execute the way I wanted to. There was one positive for me, and that was clocking in at the 132.1kmph mark. I’m really pleased with myself, and just from here, I know I need to set the boundaries a bit higher for myself, and I’m currently enjoying my bowling. I’m enjoying playing all around the world, and I’m just enjoying my body at the moment, knowing what I need to do. Obviously, after retirement, I am just putting in the hard yards and still enjoying cricket.

Q. You are 35, but the goal of dominating your discipline in the sport has not ended. Where does this never-say-no mentality stem from?

A: A lot of people and a lot of youngsters look up to me, so I always try to be as professional as I can. I think I always have that never-say-die attitude. One of my favourite songs when I go to the field is ‘The World’s Greatest’ by R. Kelly, and I firmly believe in that. That’s one song that actually pumps me before going to a game, be it a club game, an international game, or whether it’s me just playing all around the world.

I know a lot of people say that as you age, you’re losing pace; you’re losing this and that, but I firmly don’t believe it. I’m a mentally strong-headed person, and I know what I want in life, and I try to achieve it as best I can.

Q. To achieve what you have in an age where not many would expect you to be at your best. How pleased are you with your performance in the Women’s Premier League?

A: I am pretty pleased, to say the least. Some days can be disappointing, but you have to go back to the drawing board and start everything again. It’s not always going to be great, but it’s about how you bounce back from the lows, and I’m sure the coming days will be better. I’m always that positive person whenever we walk onto that field.

I know my game. I know what I need to do, and it’s just for me to go out there and execute what I know. Winning and losing are part and parcel of the game; that’s one thing that makes you stronger. After 132, hopefully, I can go up and up. For me, it’s about going out there, having fun with all the girls, and playing our best cricket because age is just a number.

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