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  • July 19, 2019
    导出博客文章To be the fastest is a compelling human desire. Whatever the pursuit - physical
    or technological - we push to do it, surpass it, then do it again in a
    never-ending quest. The Olympics are a timely reminder of exactly this, and the
    obsessive commitment it requires.Cricket is no different. Cast your mind back to
    the contest between Brett Lee and Shoaib Ahktar at the turn of the last century
    to pass the 100mph barrier. It was close to the most tantalising match-race in
    the modern game. The energy was comparable a couple of generations earlier when
    Jeff Thomson was hitting similarly high notes. From Spofforth to Larwood to
    Tyson to Holding to Tait, theres an abiding romance about the very fastest.So
    heres another name for you: Shabnim Ismail. She talks fast. She likes fast cars.
    She probably eats fast. And she bowls fast. Faster than any woman in the world,
    if you ask her. And if you dont, its likely shell tell you anyway.The spirited
    South African spoke to ESPNcricinfo while in England as one of Yorkshire
    Diamonds overseas players in the inaugural Kia Super League.It was during her
    brief cameo with Melbourne Renegades in the Womens Big Bash League in January
    that she was clocked - at the MCG no less - at 128kph (79mph). That number means
    a lot to her. It is the evidence on which she bases her claim to the mantle of
    the quickest.It was always something I wanted to do, she says. Now that I bowl
    128, it is a huge honour because no one would expect me to come up there and
    bowl gas.Why wouldnt they expect it? Its because shes small. Tiny, even: 165cm
    tall in modern parlance, or about 53 in the old money. To be honest, Im not sure
    how that happens, Ismail laughs, reflecting on the disconnect between her
    stature and the speed gun.They told me before I came here, the only job they had
    for me was to bowl fast and take wickets. Thats all I needed to do. Im quite
    happy doing that.She speaks of how the first wicket feels - how it puts
    subsequent batsmen on the back foot before theyve so much as taken guard. Its a
    compulsion that was born of watching former South Africa quick Andre Nel in her
    formative years.His aggression was crazy and I looked up to him, she reflects.
    Its why the number she wears on her shirt is 89: Nels. His passion for the game
    was just enormous, and it makes my day to see youngsters coming through the
    system being aggressive. It motivates me to go out there, show them that this is
    how it is done.At Diamonds she shared new-ball duties with Katherine Brunt, the
    only bowler in the womens game who could contest Ismails tag as worlds fastest.
    It all just adds to the fun for Ismail. Once I knew I was going to open the
    bowling with Brunty, I was really excited about two fiery people coming from
    either side - the batters must be shitting themselves!But in womens cricket you
    need to have more than rapid pace and a refreshing disposition to make it all
    add up. You need to market your skills. Thats precisely what Ismail did when the
    WBBL rolled around last Australian summer. She emailed every club.No one bit
    until Renegades brought her in for two games when Rachel Priest was unavailable.
    It was on national TV when she hit that 128 mark and got people talking.I took
    that opportunity and look where I am today: I have got a full contract season
    for them this year, she reveals. They are the opportunities you need to
    grab.Opportunities shes determined to keepon creating for herself, having
    already approached Yorkshire to come back next year as a County Championship
    player as well. Now at the peak of her powers, she just wants to bowl.Sure
    enough, it isnt quite as easy as flying into domestic competitions without it
    eventually colliding with international duty. In the case of the four South
    Africans in the inaugural KSL it was decided they would all miss a tour of
    Ireland due to the experience theyd gain in England against the bulk of the
    worlds best.Ismail, by no means a mercenary, finds this balance challenging. But
    in practical terms, its latitude that wont be repeated during the 2016-17 WBBL
    if South Africa have to qualify the hard way to get into next years World Cup
    via the qualifiers in Sri Lanka in January. Ismail states very clearly that she
    would obviously miss anything else to secure that tournament berth. Its country
    over club.Even so, it frustrates Ismail that South Africa are sixth in the
    rankings. Plenty needs to go right for them in a bilateral series against
    Australia to jump into one of four automatic entry positions. But this doesnt
    dampen her belief that they can triumph next year, using West Indies unexpected
    World T20 victory as inspiration.She does stress, though, that it would require
    a better start than they have experienced in recent ICC events. Its always the
    case that were starting off on the back foot and we have to do twice as much to
    catch up. Not wrong. South Africa only made it beyond 104 with the bat once,
    against Ireland, in this years World T20.Going back to the beginning, Ismail
    didnt have any cricket at school. Nor did the boys. So she played football with
    them instead. When the boys did get a cricket team, in the sixth year of her
    education, she joined them again - in her football shorts. They called me the
    Demon, she remembers, suggesting the trademark zip was there from the
    start.Thanks to the encouragement of her late grandfather, who urged her to read
    widely about the finer points of the game, there was no looking back. She has
    certainly done him proud, now that she is one of five South African women with a
    top-band contract.But is it enough to live the life she wants? Of this Ismail
    isnt so sure. It doesnt help when she sees Brunt pocketing for England, by her
    estimation, three times the wage she gets for effectively the same job as her
    countrys opening bowler. Its understandably a sensitive topic, likely magnified
    by her disadvantaged background.Now they have the Big Bash League for women and
    the Kia Super League, it keeps you interested and it makes you want to play even
    more cricket knowing you are meeting more people and you know you are going to
    make more money, she says. She also knows she isnt always the most popular
    player at Cricket South Africa HQ for her tendency to say what she thinks.
    Renegade by WBBL club, renegade by nature.I am actually quite a rebel, she
    self-describes. I like to say what is on my mind, and most people dont like
    that, but I think it is a good thing so people dont walk all over you.This is no
    better illustrated by what Ismail declares a crazy incident when she was
    suspended from the national academy and ordered to attend counselling for
    alleged abuse of alcohol. More than two years have elapsed since the episode,
    but she is still angry.It was basically two bowlers but myself and [Trisha]
    Chetty got dragged into it as well, she recalled. Ismail says they were told it
    wasnt going out to the media, and then to their surprise, there it was. The
    perception she was sloshed angered her; shes a Muslim, where that is frowned
    upon. Her mum was in tears. There was a lot of bullshit going around, which I
    dont like. She wishes it had stayed behind closed doors.Ismail doesnt contest it
    was a breach of contract, but to her, the public airing was a breach of faith.
    And for her, faith means a lot. While many of her team-mates practise their
    religion publicly, thats not her own style. But she prays daily, and is the only
    Muslim in the South African national side.In turn, she is proud how her story
    inspires younger generations of girls with similar upbringings. There wasnt much
    cricket for the Muslim girls back home in South Africa, she says. So going back
    to address Muslim communities to promote the game is something she finds
    rewarding. There are a lot of young girls looking up to me.As for whether her
    faith has acted as a roadblock to her playing cricket as a woman, shes
    indifferent. If her mum is happy, thats good enough for her.I think that doesnt
    really affect me - that I am a Muslim and I am playing cricket, she says. We
    have a diverse team - we have our blacks, we have our whites, we have our
    Muslims, we have our Indians, we have everything in there. So coming from a
    South African point of view, its nice to have all of that. Everyone understands
    each others religion and gives each other that space.Another lesson she learned
    came last year courtesy of a broken finger. You always have to have a career
    outside of cricket as well. The injury was the catalyst for pledging herself to
    a new challenge, studying mechanical engineering. In turn, shell fulfil a
    passion. I love cars; I love fast cars, she says. Between times she has started
    her own womens cricket academy in Johannesburg with Chetty.Her energy in
    discussing these projects is palpable, which also comes through when the
    question of longevity comes up. After all, shes 27, in a game that can be
    unforgiving for those in her specific line of work. For Ismail? She wants maybe
    another decade in the game before worrying about any of that.I know Im a fit
    person and Im only peaking now, she says. I always told myself there is no one
    better than me - that is just my attitude to the game. In my mind I am still 18
    and I am still going to play like I am 18 - all the time.Refreshing, honest,
    engaging, fast. Once you know Shabnim Ismail its unlikely youll forget her in a
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