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Women's Cricket

It's all about giving my best one ball at a time: Saika Ishaque

Mumbai Indians spinner Saika Ishaque has taken the WPL by storm with her wicket taking abilities.

Saika Ishaque Mumbai Indians WPL

Saika Ishaque (Screengrab/JioCinema)



Updated: 8 March 2023 4:29 PM GMT

It might require a special effort from a cricketer to become the captain’s go-to player, but in the case of Bengal and Mumbai Indians’ spinner Saika Ishaque, it's all about giving her best "one ball at a time".

Ishaque could not have started the Women's Premier League (WPL) any better. With six wickets in the first two matches for the table-toppers Mumbai Indians, she has not only taken the most wickets so far in the tournament but has also played a defining role in the two outings, against Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The 27-year-old left-arm spinner sparked a collapse in the RCB ranks at the Brabourne Stadium by dismissing England’s Sophie Devine and Disha Kasat in three deliveries to return with figures of 4-0-26-2, playing a key role in their 9-wicket win.

This came after her incredible spell in the tournament opener against Gujarat Giants, recording impressive figures of 3.1-1-11-4 and propelling Mumbai Indians to a massive 143-run win.

But here mantra for success has been simple, to give her best ‘one ball at a time’. “I have not prepared any differently for the Women’s Premier League. I have concentrated on bowling one delivery at a time and that is what I want to keep my focus on,” Ishaque told PTI in an exclusive interview.

Ishaque said whenever Mumbai Indians needed a wicket, captain Harmanpreet Kaur asked her to bowl. “Harry di (Harmanpreet) is pleased to see me bowl well. She has supported me a lot. Whenever she feels the team needs a wicket, she has given me the ball,” she said.

“The journey has been very good so far, people here in MI camp have been very supportive. A lot of good has happened because of them,” Ishaque added.

Among the things players wish is to start any tournament with strong performances, and Ishaque has certainly done that. But there was a time when a shoulder injury kept her away from the game for about two years, a period in which she felt she had lost everything.

“People talk about you only when you are performing well, but no one remembers you when you are not doing well. Returning from the long layoff, I had only one thing in mind ‘I do not have anything else to lose’. Whatever is there in the future, I will have to get it for myself. This was the only thing in mind,” she said.

“I have played cricket at various levels. I have played at the U-19, U-23, and even at the senior level. I have also played zonal cricket, Challengers Trophy, and even for India A. But then the injury struck me and I could not play for two years. However, once I returned after recovering from the injury, I played whatever I could.” Ishaque admitted that she had a point to prove after a long lay-off.

“It was very important for me (to perform well) since I was making a comeback after two years. I had a point to prove. I played in the Challengers Trophy and the Women’s T20 Challenger (2022). "The injury alone did not keep me out of action. I just could not bowl well enough.”

Ishaque said India’s legendary bowler Jhulan Goswami has been a pillar of strength in her journey. “Whoever I am today, a lot of credit for it goes to Jhulan Goswami. Whenever I faced any trouble I reached out to her. She has always supported me. “Jhulu di has always inspired me, I always get a different positive vibe from her. I have always wanted to play like her and have followed her journey ever since I began playing cricket,” she said.

Ishaque, who was also a member of the Trailblazers’ squad in Women’s T20 Challenger 2022 until WPL came along, was introduced to cricket by her father. “I had no such plans or thoughts to become a cricketer, it was my father who got me into this game and now I am a cricket player. My father inspired me to become a cricketer,” she said.

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