For the South African women’s cricket team, their first bit of post-Covid action may well only come in September, but their leading wicket-taker, Shabnim Ismail, says she is champing at the bit to get back on the field with her Proteas team-mates.
And the thing she misses most about playing for the Proteas is the family atmosphere.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) revealed earlier this week that they were making “positive progress” on scheduling a tri-series with India and South Africa and how they could best host it in the safest way possible.
The Proteas Women were originally scheduled to play two T20s against England in the first week of September and then move on to a four-match ODI series also featuring India.
The ECB said they were committed to still having those fixtures and they may be able to play them in their original slot.
“Coming back from the T20 World Cup, where I still believe we would have made the final if the rain hadn’t come against Australia, we were looking forward to hosting the Aussies in our own backyard,” said Ismail, who was named SA Women’s T20 Cricketer of the Year at the weekend.
“Instead we had to spend three months at home, which is really tough as a cricketer. I miss our family which is the Proteas women’s team. Soon hopefully we will be able to start training.
“Those fortunate enough to have a gym at home were able to still train, and having Trisha Chetty with me, I have a wicketkeeper to at least bowl to every day, but it’s still not the same as nets.
“I really miss it and the team environment. For the last couple of years we have seen each other every month.
“It’s all very different from when I started playing for the Proteas in 2007 when I was still very young (18).”
One of the fastest bowlers in the global women’s game, getting into the 120s in terms of speed, Ismail has a phenomenal record with 136 wickets in 98 ODIs and 99 scalps in 92 T20s.
Now, heading for her 32nd birthday, she is confident that her career is far from done.
As befits someone who always looks ready for a scrap on the field, the Cape Town product says she modelled herself on Andre Nel’s aggression, if not the occasional red mist that used to descend on the fiery fast bowler from the East Rand.
“I chose the same No 89 on my Proteas shirt because I loved Andre Nel’s aggression and passion,” Ismail said.
“Dale Steyn is also a role model because he is a fighting character, as I am. To be a fighter is just in a fast bowler’s character.
“I’m turning 32 but I still believe I have a good couple of years left, if I keep fit. Nobody sees what you do behind the scenes, but I believe in my skill and ability.”