Home TeamsSouth Africa South Africa speedster Shabnim Ismail retires from international cricket

South Africa speedster Shabnim Ismail retires from international cricket

Shabnim Ismail, lauded as the quickest in the women’s game, has retired from international cricket. Ismail, whose 16-year career concluded with the home T20 World Cup in February, will continue to play in T20 competitions around the world.

Despite being offered a national contract for the 2023/24 season and being announced by Cricket South Africa (CSA), Ismail did not accept and has chosen to end her South Africa career with immediate effect in order to prioritise her family. In a statement, issued by CSA, Ismail said she finds herself “wanting to spend more time with my family, particularly my siblings and parents as they get older. I really believe that reducing the amount of cricket I play will enable me to do this, and playing in global leagues is the only way I see to be able to fit in both family and cricket.”

Ismail played for the UP Warriorz in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League, has a deal with the Sapphires in the Fairbreak tournament, with the Welsh Fire for the Hundred (and has previously been part of the Oval Invincibles squad) and Melbourne Renegade in the WBBL.

Her retirement comes at a time when the women’s game is seeing an increase in T20 franchise leagues and more opportunities for players to earn money as freelancers, rather than rely on a national contract.

That is completely different to when she debuted in 2007 and played purely as an amateur while working as a speed-point technician to pay the bills. Seven years later, in 2014, Cricket South Africa were able to contract seven women’s players and Ismail was among them. She would go on to play for another nine years, finishing with one Test cap, 127 ODI appearances and 113 T20Is. Ismail’s 191 ODI wickets are the second-most in the women’s game, behind Jhulan Goswami while her 123 T20I wickets is the fourth-biggest career-haul for any bowler. She holds the women’s record for the most ODI wickets in a calendar year – 37 in 2022 – the most wickets at a single ground – 24 in Potchefstroom – and the most T20I wickets where the batter was bowled: 42.
Ismail played in four fifty-over World Cups and all eight T20 World Cups, dating back to 2009, and reached three semi-finals and memorably, the home T20 World Cup final earlier this year. Her fiery spell in the semi-final against England saw South Africa reach their first senior World Cup final, and included some of the fastest deliveries in the women’s game as Ismail sent the speed gun upwards of 128kph. She was known for her efforts to continually set the bar higher in terms of speed and her uncompromising on-field persona.

“As I look back on my international career, I am so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I have had,” Ismail’s statement read. “I have loved being able to compete at the highest level and I am so proud of being able to be part of a wonderful group of players who have led the way for women in cricket. The memories I have will stay with me forever.”

Ismail’s retirement comes at a time of transition for South Africa’s women’s team.

Since December 2022, South Africa have lost five players who were part of their first wave of professionalisation: Mignon du Preez, Lizelle Lee, Dane van Niekerk, Trisha Chetty and now Ismail. CSA are working to further professionalise the women’s game with a women’s director of cricket and a fully professional domestic league in the works for the 2023/23 season. They are also expected to announce equal match fees for women’s and men’s teams imminently. While the administration strategises around the future of the women’s game, they also congratulated Ismail on a stellar career.

“This is a poignant but celebratory moment for South African cricket and the global game as a whole, as we celebrate and honour an incredible cricketer in Shabnim Ismail,” Enoch Nkwe, CSA’s Director of Cricket said. “Shabnim has transcended women’s cricket as a fierce competitor with the ability of making any batter uncomfortable at the crease with her rapid pace that regularly surpassed 120kph throughout her career. She will be sorely missed by the team and all South African cricket fans as she continues to inspire the next generation of cricketers during her remaining domestic career in all parts of the globe.”

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