‘Proteas Women still have a great bowling unit ...’ Ayabonga Khaka says there is life after Shabnim Ismail

Ayabonga Khaka says the Proteas Women will cope with the loss of veteran bowler Shabnim Ismail. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Ayabonga Khaka says the Proteas Women will cope with the loss of veteran bowler Shabnim Ismail. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 30, 2023


There is life after Shabnim Ismail, according to her long-time partner in crime, fellow Proteas Women’s seam bowler Ayabonga Khaka.

Ismail led the Proteas seam bowling attack with aplomb for 16 years since making her international debut back in 2007.

But even though the fiery fast bowler seemed to be in her prime at the T20 World Cup in South Africa earlier this year – where she was still clocking speeds close to 130km/h – the 34-year-old opted to retire from international cricket a few months ago.

Khaka, along with Ismail and Marizanne Kapp, formed the famous “Three Musketeers”, with the trio regularly hunting down opposition batting line-ups.

But with Ismail retired, there is now an increased responsibility on Khaka and Kapp to shoulder the burden, although the long-limbed seamer believes the Proteas have adequate back-up ahead of the first T20 international against Pakistan on Friday (4.30pm start) at the National Stadium in Karachi.

“I think everyone that comes and goes within the team, the team will always miss the impact that player had. It is always like that. We have all the memories with them, and it is something we will miss in the change-room,” Khaka told Independent Media from Karachi yesterday.

“But as a bowling unit, we do have a great unit. We do have people who can step in. I think most of us bowl with the new ball in provincial cricket – the likes of Nadine (de Klerk), Masabata Klaas and Tumi (Sekhukhune).

“We are used to that role as a unit, all the seamers.”

Khaka is a global superstar in her own right, though. The 31-year-old has 160 international wickets across all formats, and is the Proteas’ highest-ranked active oneday international bowler in eighth position.

Will she be pressing on new captain Laura Wolvaardt’s button to take over the pressure-filled “death” over responsibilities that Ismail used to relish?

“I’ll leave the captain’s job to the captain,” Khaka chuckled. “If they want me to bowl, then I’ll bowl. If they don’t want me to bowl, that’s okay.

“I am not the type of player that will go to the captain and say ‘I want to bowl’. I’ll let them make their decisions.”

Although the Proteas will dearly miss Ismail’s X-factor pace against Pakistan – especially as she claimed 25 T20 and 34 ODI wickets against the Asian nation previously – the team does have a core of experienced bowlers to fill the void.

Masabata Klaas has 109 Proteas caps across all formats, while the recalled Tumi Sekhukhune has also played a Test and 51 limited-over matches already.

Nadine de Klerk has also begun to take her rightful place in the Proteas team after being in the shadow of the more senior players, and could be a real asset with the new ball – particularly in the T20 format where she bowls wicket-to-wicket and hurries batters with her deceptive pace.