‘Keep calm and no need to do anything special’ – How Saika Ishaque bossed the WPL last year

As a teenager, Saika Ishaque decided to stop going to her cricket academy one day. She felt embarrassed when everyone found out she was a girl in a boys’ academy. She used to play cricket with boys on the streets when she was growing up in Park Circus, Kolkata. Her dad introduced her to the game when she was very young. He passed away when she was just nine, but she kept playing with the support of her mom, her uncle Ismail, and a friend of her dad’s who got her into that boys’ academy.


When she didn’t want to go back to training, her dad’s friend took her to a girls’ academy. There, she met a very tall India player named Jhulan Goswami. Ishaque was surprised to learn that women also played for India, as she only knew about male players like Sachin Tendulkar. Today, Ishaque plays for Mumbai Indians in the WPL, with Goswami as her coach. She had a great first season, taking 15 wickets in ten matches.


At first, Ishaque loved wicketkeeping and fast bowling, but a coach suggested she try spin as a lefty. She was unsure at first but did well as a spinner. She looked up to another India player, Gouher Sultana, who inspired her to bowl left-arm spin.


Sultana, who played 87 matches for India, is returning to cricket at 35. They might play against each other in the WPL. Last season, Ishaque bowled well, especially in the powerplays, where spinners usually don’t get many chances. She took some big-name wickets like Sophie Devine, Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, and Shafali Verma.


She credits her coach Shibsagar Singh for helping her stay calm and focused. He helped her overcome a shoulder injury and gave her advice on her bowling technique. He even supported her family financially when they were struggling.


Ishaque’s hard work paid off, and she did exceptionally well in the WPL and the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy for Bengal. She was thrilled when she got added to the India team’s WhatsApp group. She made her ODI and T20I debuts and got picked for the Test squad. It hasn’t been easy, but with determination, skill, and support, she’s living her dream.

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