At just 15 years of age, this pace sensation from Visakhapatnam is clocking speeds of 110kph. Shabnam is a right-arm speedster who was recently announced in India Women’s U19 squad that will take on New Zealand Women’s U19 in a five-match T20 series in Mumbai from November 27 to December 6. She is the youngest player in the side. Cricket runs in her blood as her father is also an avid cricketer.
Shabnam talks about her first day at the cricket academy, getting a chance to meet her idol Jhulan Goswami and many more with Female Cricket.
Recently you were announced in India Women’s U19 squad to play against New Zealand Women’s U19. How does it feel?
I am happy to have made it to the India Women’s U19 squad. I feel I am going on the right path and close to achieving my dreams. Also, I am the youngest player in the side. Though there are expectations from people, I want to continue playing fearless cricket and be my natural self.
You were last seen in the Women’s U19 T20 Quadrangular Series that featured India A, India B, Sri Lanka, and West Indies. How was the experience?
It was a fantastic experience to play against international teams like Sri Lanka and West Indies. Through the series, we came to know how foreign players play and approach the game. Also, we learnt about where we stand as cricketers at the international level. I think our batters and bowlers are technically and tactically better than our international counterparts.
Before the Quadrangular Series, you attended a camp at NCA. Tell us more about that.
There was a camp for 25 players at the NCA. Our preparations revolved around the World Cup and the Quadrangular Series. All three departments of the game were given equal importance. It was a great learning experience. There I was asked to work on my strengths and stock balls. Bowling bouncer is my strength, and I worked towards improving it. I have also added a few variations to my bowling. At the end of the camp, I was more confident as a player. We enjoyed ourselves too.
At just 15 years of age, you have already clocked a speed of 110kph. What is the secret behind your fast bowling?
My coach always says that everything is in the name. You are a fast bowler, so you have to bowl nothing but fast. From the day I started playing cricket, my only aim was to bowl as fast as possible. Gradually I developed good bouncers. I aim at the batter’s ribs when I am bowling.
Tell us about your early days in cricket.
I started playing cricket when I was about eight years old. My parents work with the Navy, so they are out all day. Also, my father plays club-level cricket as a fast bowler. Since there used to be nobody at home, he took me to the cricket ground where he played matches. From a young age, I saw him bowling fast, which inspired me to take up fast bowling. Seeing my interest developing in cricket, my parents enrolled me in a cricket academy. I joined NAD academy and practiced at VDCA (Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association) ground. I still remember my first day at the academy. It was December 19, 2015. At NAD, I had Nagaraju sir as my coach, and at VDCA, I had Satish Reddy sir and Krishna Rao sir as coaches. Initially, I just wanted to play for fun. I had no plans of playing professional cricket. However, after seeing so many girls playing, even I wanted to play serious cricket. I train at NAD in the morning, and in the evening, I practice at VDCA. The VDCA ground is about 25 km from my home. My younger sister, Shahjahan Begum, who plays for the U15 team, my neighbour (elder girl), and I travel together for practice at VDCA.
How was your first day at the academy?
On the first day at the academy, I got into a small argument with my coach. In one net, a boy was batting; in the other, a girl was batting. My coach asked me to observe the boy’s batting and learn from him. However, I told him that I would watch the girl’s batting and try to learn from her.
You made your U19 debut for Andhra last year. Which has been your memorable performance so far?
In November this year, when I played the Quadrangular Series, I picked up two wickets in four overs against India A. I completed my four-over spell in one go and bowled 18 dot balls. Rajeev Dutta sir was our coach, and he gave me confidence.
You are studying in 10th standard right now. Next year, you have the board exam and World Cup. How are you managing academics and cricket?
Honestly, I am a little scared. But the best part is my school, Siva Sivani School, has been very supportive. My Principal has created a WhatsApp group with my teachers and me. I can ask questions in this group, and the teachers will answer them. This has been really helpful.
When did you come to know about the Women’s U19 T20 World Cup? How are you preparing for it?
I came to know about the World Cup last year when my coach informed me about it. That year I also made my debut for the Andhra state team. After an excellent domestic season, I made it to the ZCA and NCA. When I was there, I felt I was getting closer to my goal. Since then, I have been doing specific training with respect to my skill and fitness. All my sessions are well-planned, and the schedule is prepared by my coach. I have been doing conditioning sessions, and I have been advised to take an ice bath for recovery. My father has arranged for an ice bath at home. Apart from this, I have been working on my wicket-taking deliveries.
Which is your favourite cricketing venue?
Goa, you get a good bounce there.
Which is your favourite wicket to date?
It could have been Shweta Sehrawat. I got her out during the Quadrangular series, but unfortunately, the catch was dropped.
Which is your favourite mode of dismissal?
Who is your role model?
Jhulan Goswami. My father has always encouraged me to become like her. I am tall, and I bowl fast. During one of the state matches, I got a chance to click a picture with her. That is one of my best memories.
Which is your favorite food dish?
Which is your favorite movie?
What are your hobbies?
I like dancing. I also play badminton and chess.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.