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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Saika Ishaque’s bouncy ride to stardom

WPL’s highest wicket-taker owes it to Jhulan and Shibsagar

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 16.03.23, 03:40 AM
Saika Ishaque

Saika Ishaque

Around four years back, a shoulder injury and a slump in form cost Saika Ishaque a place in the Bengal women’s team. Coming from a humble background, hardships and challenges off the field, too, threatened to make it tougher for the youngster.

Things slowly started turning around from September 2021 when Ishaque began training under former Bengal Ranji Trophy cricketer Shibsagar Singh, who’s currently the bowling coach of the Bengal women’s teams of all age groups. And 18 months later, the 27-year-old Park Circus girl finds herself at the top of the highest wicket-takers’ list (12 scalps from 5 matches) in the inaugural Women’s Premier League.

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In her maiden appearance in a big-ticket event, it’s certainly an achievement for an uncapped player to outshine the bigger names of international cricket. But the leftarm orthodox isn’t among those to rest on her laurels.

Not thinking too far ahead as far as her career is concerned, Ishaque is completely focused on sharpening her bowling skills which have driven table-toppers Mumbai Indians. “To me it felt like, the only way was to move forward. And that’s what motivated me.

“My family was one of my biggest supporters, giving me a lot of confidence that I can come back and play cricket,” Ishaque, recalling those dark days, told The Telegraph.

Since September 2021, she put in a lot of effort into her bowling and daily training, regained her place in the Bengal team and was also selected in the India A team for the Senior Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy last season before bagging a WPL contract, which has been her biggest prize so far.

“I then had Jhulan (Goswami) di and Shibu Sir, both of whom helped me. And when I have so many positive people around me, it makes me want to play well and not disappoint those who are around, and to do justice to the faith they have shown on me,” Ishaque said.

“So I just want to go out, play and bowl well. Not thinking of anything else at the moment.”

Having the legendary Jhulan as mentor at Mumbai Indians is also proving to be beneficial for Ishaque. “Jhulandi bought me my first cricket kit, and I’m very grateful to her for being a guide and helping me on this path that I am currently on.

“I can say so much about her impact and her support to my game that I won’t be able to stop. She’s still doing that every day, which is why I’m here,” Ishaque emphasised.

That said, it’s her mentor Shibsagar, whom Ishaque is “indebted” to for his “trust” on her. For Shibsagar though, what mattered was working on her mindset alongside tweaking her action a little bit and adding certain variations to her bowling.

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