Saika Ishaque living her late father’s dream 

Roaring start: Saika scalped four wickets on her WPL debut for Mumbai Indians.

Roaring start: Saika scalped four wickets on her WPL debut for Mumbai Indians.
| Photo Credit: ANI

It was with boys that Saika Ishaque started playing cricket. That is not unusual at all for female cricketers, around the world. What is unusual is that the boys she played with, at an academy in Kolkata, thought that she was a boy.

“I had short hair and looked quite like a boy; I was about nine then,” a smiling Saika said during an interview with The Hindu on Wednesday. “When those boys found out that I was a girl, I felt embarrassed. They stopped talking to me.”

She is now the talk of the town. With six wickets from two matches in the WPL, she became an early owner of the purple cap.

The left-arm spinner took four wickets on her Mumbai Indians debut, against Gujarat Giants, and then another two against Royal Challengers Bangalore. It should have been a dream start to any uncapped player.

“But I am not living my dream, I am living my father’s dream,” Saika says. “He used to take me along to watch Mohammedan Sporting’s football matches, but wanted me to play cricket. One of his friends — I think his name was Babloo — took me to that boys’ academy and later to another, where Jhulan Goswami trained.”

Saika lost her father when she was very young. “He would have been really happy to see me playing at the WPL,” says the 27-year-old. “After his death, I was determined that I would become a cricketer.”

She is glad that she has been picked by Mumbai Indians. “MI has been my favourite IPL team and I am a fan of Suryakumar Yadav,” she says. “It is great playing alongside Harmanpreet Kaur, who is such a fine captain. Coach Charlotte Edwards has given me a lot of confidence.”

Edwards told her on the morning of the match against Giants that she was in the eleven. “I was nervous, yes,” says Saika. “But I told myself: you have to bowl just one ball at a time.”

That strategy seems to be working for Saika.

“I want to play for India,” she says.

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