Ismail relishing the challenge
Sun, Sep 26, 2010 5:34 PM
Shabnim Ismail is keen to lead by example
South Africa opening bowler Shabnim Ismail wants to lead by example at the upcoming ICC Women's Cricket Challenge, to be played from 6-16 October, 2010.
The tournament, which will be held in Potchefstroom, South Africa, will bring together teams ranked between fifth and 10th place in the world to compete in a series of One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 matches.
"It is a great opportunity because I lead the attack and want to do so by example. The younger players look up to me and I want them to follow my footsteps," said Ismail.
At 21, Ismail is one of the youngest in the South African line-up but has already put in three years of international cricket in her career. The right-arm medium-pacer has learnt on the job and has risen through the ranks to be one of the key players in a young South African team.
The team just recently wound up a training camp at Potchefstroom and Ismail sensed that the squad was progressing well. "Inexperience in the squad is not that bad a thing. When we had this camp, we gelled well. We spoke to the new players. They trained very well with the squad. We just need everything to fall into place very quickly, if we have to move to the next level," said Ismail.
The South African team, according to Ismail, will benefit from the home advantage that comes with hosting the tournament. "We trained hard at Potchefstroom (venue of the tournament). We saw the wicket, it was flat. We took note of the conditions," said Ismail.
Ismail opined that the South African team depend heavily on skipper Cri-Zelda Brits and Mignon du Preez in their batting department. But Ismail reckoned the team was in the most positive mindset in recent times.
"It will be a challenge for us (with the inexperience), but we are positive about the tournament because we want to be best in the world. We want to win this tournament 200 percent. The mindset is positive and we just want to win it."
South Africa, informed Ismail, have worked on their fitness during their camp. "We have a strong bowling line-up. We need to work on our batting and ensure that we don't lose wickets quickly like on our tour to West Indies. We have learnt a lot from that. The most important thing is that we need to spend time in the middle," added Ismail.
Ismail picked West Indies as the biggest competition for South Africa at the tournament. "West Indies is competition for us. They toured South Africa last December and gave us a good fight."
Ismail herself hopes to catch the attention of South Africa pace spearhead Dale Steyn post a good performance in the tournament.
"Dale Steyn is my role model for his attitude, for the way he walks onto the field, for the way he approaches the batsman. I want to be like him. I have met him a few times, but have never really spoken to him. I want to get into his mind. I want to know when he gets nervous, when he remains calm. What does he think when he makes eye contact with the batsman?"
Ismail insists that she herself has learnt a lot by playing three years of international cricket.
"When I joined the national team, I was just shocked at how much I need to learn about playing at this level. But the shock gave way to self-confidence that I can be better than the rest. I am now positive and am a big believer because I am the key bowler in the team," informed Ismail.
Coming from a family of seven children, Ismail's only connection to the sport in the early years was her cousin Mohd Yasin, who played first-class cricket for Western Province.
But her passion for the game was fuelled by the push she got in her early years from her grandfather.
"He used to encourage me, to go and play. He used to ask me to go to library to read about the game, train with cricket coaches, and work on fitness. He would push me and say divide your time between studies and cricket career. He had said one day you will be one of the best in South Africa if not the world. He was my inspiration."
Ismail currently balances her cricket career with a day job as sports coach at one of the schools in Cape Town. She keeps herself fit by playing football with school children, touch rugby at a field near her house. "I have always been playing with the boys to keep fit. I even played cricket in the early years for a boys' club."
Ismail claimed that she has done whatever she can to be in the best shape possible for the ICC Women's Cricket Challenge. She now cannot wait for the tournament to get underway.
"It (tournament) is important for me because it was a dream for me to play for South Africa. This is my life. I love the game just too much and it has been my passion for long."