HomeFeatureEXCLUSIVE: "Consistency Is More Important In Cricket Than Anything Else" - Saima...

EXCLUSIVE: “Consistency Is More Important In Cricket Than Anything Else” – Saima Thakor

It was Match 15 of the Women’s Premier League and the UP Warriorz were taking on the table toppers, Delhi Capitals. Saima Thakor found herself in a gripping showdown with none other than the explosive India batter, Shafali Verma. The stage was set, the tension palpable, as the two talented cricketers locked horns in a battle of skill and strategy. With every delivery, the anticipation grew, each ball holding the promise of a game-changing moment.

And then it happened. In a display of nerves of steel and tactical prowess, Saima Thakor executed a masterful delivery that outfoxed Shafali Verma, claiming her wicket. It was a moment of triumph, a testament to Saima’s hard work and dedication to her craft. UP Warriorz eventually went on to win the game by 1 run in what was an absolute thriller of a game.

She spoke to Women’s CricInsight about the duel with Shafali by saying, “I think aggression brings the best out of me. I think that is something that is inbuilt. It’s not that I did it on purpose or anything like that, but I was very calm and in that situation because I had Sophie [Ecclestone] and Tahlia [McGrath] who was just keeping me calm and that thing happened.

She’s like, ‘No just be calm and have a clear mindset. You need to be very clear with your plans’. So she made it very easy for me. And when the result came I was really thankful to her because she was the one who was really helping me out and not just in that match but actually in most of the match. So just Shafali’s wicket was just not my wicket but it was the team’s wicket.”

From this electrifying encounter emerged not just a wicket, but a symbol of Saima’s journey – a journey marked by determination, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As she began to unravel her story, it became evident that hers was not just a narrative of cricketing prowess but a testament to the human spirit’s indomitable will.

“I think the last time I spoke to you, I was in a very different mindset, but now I’m glad I’m in a very different place,” Saima Thakor reflected, her voice tinged with gratitude as she gazed back at the arduous path she’s traversed.

For Saima, cricket transcends the boundaries of mere sport; it’s a lifeline, a conduit that has brought her face-to-face with a multitude of life-altering experiences and remarkable individuals. “I would say, because of this game, I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people that I have now,” Saima shared. “I wouldn’t have met you as well. So, we wouldn’t have had this conversation.” It is a sentiment that underscores the profound impact cricket has had on her life, forging connections and relationships that transcend the boundaries of the playing field.

As she delves deeper into what cricket means to her, Saima acknowledges the pivotal role it has played in shaping her trajectory. “Maybe I would have done some nine-to-five job if I was not into cricket or something like that,” she mused. It’s a contemplation that speaks volumes about the transformative power of the sport, offering her avenues of self-discovery and fulfilment that she might not have otherwise explored.

Her journey through cricket has been nothing short of transformative, punctuated by moments of triumph and perseverance. Reflecting on her experience in the Women’s Premier League (WPL), Saima’s pride shines through as she recounts the joy of seeing her parents witness her achievements firsthand. “After coming from WPL, my parents… I could see their faces. They were genuinely just… proud,” she recalled, her voice swelling with emotion.

“Watching me, I was very proud of myself at that moment” – Saima Thakor

Saima Thakor had a season to remember! [Image: Getty]
Saima Thakor had a season to remember! [Image: Getty]
The significance of those moments isn’t lost on Saima; they serve as a testament to the profound impact cricket has had on her life and the lives of those closest to her. “Watching me, I was very proud of myself at that moment,” she reflects, a quiet sense of satisfaction permeating her words.

In Saima’s life, cricket isn’t just a game—it’s a beacon of hope, a catalyst for personal growth, and a source of boundless joy. Through its trials and triumphs, she has discovered the true essence of perseverance and resilience, forging connections that have enriched her life in ways she could never have imagined.

Saima’s tryst with cricket wasn’t a predestined affair but rather a serendipitous encounter born out of necessity and a passion waiting to be unleashed. “I was a footballer before; I really liked football, and I still do,” she reminisces, a hint of nostalgia colouring her words.

She added, “But in between, we had a cricket team as well, and they had just a shortage of a few players. So they decided to get all those girls from there and fill the gap I was one of them they chose one player from volleyball, one from handball and back then, I just enjoyed playing cricket. Then suddenly somebody just suggested I start playing cricket and that it will be really good for you.

I took a chance and went for the trials just because I used to play cricket with my cousins and my brother and everyone. So I knew what cricket was, yet it was a new sport for me, but professionally picking up cricket was a good decision. I can say and now here I am.”

Amidst financial constraints and familial obligations, Saima’s journey was fraught with obstacles. “Initially, when I started playing cricket, I wanted to be a wicket-keeper batter,” she shares, reflecting on the challenges she faced. Talking about her transition to becoming a pacer she reflected, “But it’s an expensive sport, so somebody just told me, ‘Become a bowler, it’s an easier path.’ My heart was somewhere else, but circumstances led me to become a fast bowler.”

However, it was her father’s unwavering support amidst financial turmoil that became the cornerstone of her journey. “I asked my father to help me out through cricket, and he said he really wanted to, but he couldn’t,” she recounted, a sense of gratitude evident in her voice. “We had a little bit of a financial crisis at that moment, and he just asked me to pick up a job. But I requested him, ‘Just give me a year or maybe just a year or two. I really want to play, I really want to give myself a chance in this sport.'”

And the rest as they say is history.

The influence of role models and inspirations can shape a player’s journey, instilling values of discipline, perseverance, and excellence. For Saima Thakor, these guiding lights come in the form of cricketing legends whose feats on the field transcend mere statistics, embodying the essence of the sport.

“I really love watching James [Jimmy] Anderson,” Saima confessed, her reverence palpable. “He’s one of the living legends, I would say.” Her admiration for the English fast bowler emanates from his unparalleled consistency, unwavering mindset, and indomitable discipline. Despite the passage of time, Anderson continues to defy age, remaining at the pinnacle of his craft. As Saima reflects on his achievements, she finds inspiration in his journey—a testament to the enduring spirit of cricketing excellence.

But Saima’s admiration extends beyond the confines of fast bowling, encompassing the multifaceted brilliance of cricketers like Jhulan Goswami and Ellyse Perry. “And of course, you can learn so much from legends like [Jhulan] Goswami and [Ellyse] Perry,” she muses, acknowledging the profound impact these stalwarts have had on her cricketing ethos.

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) emerged as a pivotal chapter in Saima’s career, a stage where her talent met opportunity, and her resilience knew no bounds. “Being acquired by the UP Warriorz for my base price was like a dream come true,” she shares, her eyes gleaming with pride. “My family was ecstatic, and the support I received from fans was overwhelming.” 

In the inaugural edition of the WPL, Saima went unsold which was disappointing and this year her strategy was different. She added, “I really didn’t want to see the WPL 2024 Auctions. I was playing with my nephew and then later my cousin came and he started dancing and said I had been picked by UP Warriorz. Everybody was happy, a lot of people came home, and they were just so excited!.”

Currently, Saima’s family is rejoicing in the birth of a new member but speaking on the same, she said, “They were actually watching the matches on TV, but I just had a niece recently so it was a little bit difficult for them to join me and watch the matches live from the stadium. I really would have loved if they would have come but we had another good news for our family, so I am happy”.

As she delved deeper into her WPL experience, Saima’s narrative transcended the boundaries of mere cricketing anecdotes, touching upon moments that resonated with profound emotions. Reflecting on the experience, Saima highlights the supportive and empowering environment fostered by the team.

Saima Thakor was in stellar form versus Delhi Capitals [Image: Getty]
Saima Thakor was in stellar form versus Delhi Capitals [Image: Getty]
“The environment that UP Warriorz gave us was really amazing,” Saima shares with enthusiasm. “As a player, we were very free to play cricket, and that’s what I aim for.” The sense of freedom and support extended to all players, fostering a camaraderie that transcended the boundaries of the game. Senior players and overseas players alike welcomed questions and discussions, creating an atmosphere conducive to growth and learning.

Central to the team dynamic was captain Alyssa Healy, described by Saima as a calm but astute leader. “She knows how to manage her players,” Saima noted appreciatively. Despite being relatively new to the team, Alyssa’s ability to understand and connect with each player on a personal level greatly contributed to the team’s cohesion and performance.

Under the guidance of head coach John Lewis, the UP Warriorz witnessed significant strides in their game. Saima describes Lewis as a man of few words but profound impact. “He won’t talk much, but he’ll just get things out of you,” she explains.

She also observed, “That is something that I really loved about him. If I had a question about my bowling or any other field placement and he’ll be like, what do you think and he’ll just keep asking the right questions that kind of a man he is. We are used to getting the questions but they are the ones who are asking the question and the coach or whoever is they’ll answer that question. But he’s the one asking us the right question and he’s getting the answer from us. He wanted us to know our cricket. I’ve been learning a lot from him.”

Lewis’s approach focused on empowering players to understand their own game, asking probing questions to stimulate self-reflection and growth.

Saima Thakor reflected fondly on the cohesive atmosphere within the team, attributing much of their success to the supportive environment fostered by the management, owners, and captain. Off the field, they cultivated camaraderie through activities like table tennis and carrom, deepening their bond beyond cricket. This camaraderie translated into on-field success, with the team maintaining a focus on their mindset rather than getting bogged down by cricket talk off the field.

Speaking about her own temperament, Saima acknowledged the role of her teammates, particularly highlighting the calming influence of her colleagues, Tahlia McGrath, Grace Harris, Sophie Ecclestone and domestic players like S Yashasri and Gouher Sultana.

She emphasized the importance of maintaining composure, even in high-pressure situations, focusing on executing plans rather than succumbing to external pressures. It was this collective mindset that allowed her to perform consistently, with gratitude towards her teammates for their support not just in one match, but throughout the season.

Saima Thakor’s transition from domestic to professional cricket came with its own set of challenges, particularly in adjusting to the intensity and expectations of the Women’s Premier League. Reflecting on her early matches, Saima opens up about the hurdles she faced and the support she received from her captain and teammates. “In the first match when I made my debut, I had the domestic mindset,” Saima admits candidly.

The shift from domestic cricket to the professional arena required a recalibration of her approach and understanding of the game’s dynamics. However, with the guidance of her captain and coaching staff, she quickly adapted to the demands of elite-level cricket.

Despite initial difficulties, Saima found solace in the unwavering support of her captain, who shouldered the responsibility for strategic decisions and provided reassurance during challenging moments. “She took all the blame on her,” Saima recalled. “She made it so easy and even the other teammates and staff were supportive, encouraging her to view the experience as a learning opportunity rather than a setback.”

Playing in front of large, vocal crowds added another layer of complexity to Saima’s journey. Accustomed to the quieter ambience of domestic matches, she initially felt overwhelmed by the electrifying atmosphere of packed stadiums.

“I was a bit shy for the first few days. We were just seeing the matches behind the scenes. We don’t know what exactly it is, but after that, we started getting used to it and it was more about Focus. I mean, there are so many distractions around but how you focus that’s what Learn from all the senior players and the international players,” she admits.

However, with time and guidance from senior players and international stars, she learned to channel her focus amidst distractions, recognizing the value of composure and concentration in high-pressure situations.

Saima Thakor finally came to her own in the WPL 2024 [Image: Getty]
Saima Thakor finally came to her own in the WPL [Image: Getty]
Saima Thakor’s first wicket in the Women’s Premier League, a dismissal of the formidable Harmanpreet Kaur, stands as a pivotal moment in her journey. Reflecting on this milestone, Saima recounts the preparation and mindset that led to this achievement. “Before that,” she begins, “I played one game and then I was not able to bowl for two or three games.”

Despite being sidelined from bowling, Saima remained focused on contributing in any way possible, whether through fielding or other aspects of the game. This dedication bore fruit with a notable run-out in a previous match against the Gujarat Giants.

Transitioning from fielding to bowling, Saima found herself embracing the opportunity to showcase her skills. “I was just enjoying my cricket,” she explains, emphasizing her joy in simply being on the field and participating in the game she loves. Under the guidance of the team’s bowling coach, Ashley Noffke, Saima honed her skills and focused on execution.

“It was just about the execution,” Saima emphasized, highlighting the importance of precision and technique in bowling. Through diligent practice and individualized coaching, she sharpened her ability to read opponents and deliver effective deliveries. When the opportunity to claim her first wicket presented itself, Saima seized it with confidence and elation.

For Saima Thakor, the dismissal of Harmanpreet Kaur symbolized more than just a cricketing achievement— she even rates it as one of her topmost moments from the tournament. She said, I was waiting to get an opportunity. I love bowling and I like taking wickets and finally when I had that opportunity. I was just enjoying, that’s it.”

“I love bowling and I like taking wickets” – Saima Thakor

Saima Thakor fondly recounts a pivotal moment with her captain, before a crucial game, shedding light on the profound impact it had on her mindset and performance. “Healy just called me in the dressing room,” Saima began, recalling the unexpected summons before a scheduled team meeting. Her initial apprehension quickly turns to curiosity as she wonders if she’s in trouble. However, what follows is a heartwarming gesture that deeply touches her.

Describing the scene, Saima shares, “She was very quiet and no one was there,” setting the stage for a moment of genuine connection between captain and player. Healy presents Saima with a team jersey, symbolizing trust and faith in her abilities. “This is because I trust you,” Healy assures her, emphasizing the collective belief the team has in her.

The significance of this gesture isn’t lost on Saima. “This means a lot,” she acknowledges, recognizing the encouragement and support embedded within the simple act of receiving the jersey. With a newfound sense of confidence and purpose, Saima prepares for the match, carrying the weight of her captain’s belief alongside her.

Reflecting on the impact of Healy’s gesture, Saima remarked, “It is just going to stick in my memory, I think, for a lifetime.” The unexpected affirmation from her captain left a lasting impression, fueling her determination and instilling a sense of responsibility to perform not just for herself, but for the team. She went on to pick two wickets versus a formidable Delhi Capitals side and did not look back.

Saima Thakor expressed her eagerness to implement lessons learned from the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in her upcoming domestic matches. Reflecting on the mindset of consistent players like Jemimah Rodrigues, she emphasized the importance of mental fortitude in cricket. Saima marvelled at Jemi’s unwavering consistency in domestic cricket and sought to emulate it, recognizing that success in cricket hinges greatly on maintaining a steadfast mindset.

She also underscored the significance of the mental aspect, noting that while skills and techniques are essential, consistency ultimately defines a player’s greatness. Saima’s aspiration to cultivate a resilient mindset reflects her dedication to continuous improvement and her determination to elevate her game to new heights.

In her own words, Saima highlighted, “I came to know why she [Jemi] was able to do it. It was just about the mindset and I really wanted to experience that and jab woh experience mila (translates to ‘when I got the experience’), I realised how it works. How you can fight for certain things and how you can become more consistent. I would say so consistency is more important in cricket than anything else, and only then, you’re a very good player.”

But amidst the euphoria of victories and the adulation of fans, Saima remains grounded, acknowledging the importance of self-belief and resilience. “Keep believing, keep dreaming,” she urges, her words echoing with a sense of empowerment. “Fans are the lifeblood of any team, their unwavering support fuels our determination to strive for greatness.”

Looking forward to a well-deserved break before diving back into training and preparation for upcoming challenges. “Yeah, I’ll just take a few days off and spend some time with my family,” Saima expresses, highlighting the importance of reconnecting with loved ones. She mentions the joy of having a new member in her family and the ongoing observance of Ramadan, indicating her commitment to personal and spiritual responsibilities.

With a sense of anticipation, Saima Thakor looked ahead to resuming her training regimen. “I really looking forward to spending some time with my family and then of course, get into the training and the practice,” she shares, acknowledging the dedication required to excel in her craft.

Drawing inspiration from observing the routines of Australian and English players, Saima recognizes the long road ahead in her journey towards improvement. “I know now I’ve seen the Australians and the English players who do so well and what their routine is so I have a long way to go, just starting with the mindset and getting to the groove is crucial,” she reflects, demonstrating her determination to learn and grow as a cricketer.

Saima Thakor concludes her conversation with a heartfelt message to her newfound supporters and fans, expressing gratitude for their unwavering encouragement and acknowledging the pivotal role they play in shaping both individual players and teams.

Reflecting on the overwhelming response she received after a memorable match against Delhi Capitals, Saima recounts how her social media was flooded with messages and notifications, a testament to the impact of her performance. Despite the chaos, she embraces the moment with humility and gratitude, recognizing the significance of fan support in elevating the spirit of the game.

“I don’t regret anything,” Saima Thakor asserted, emphasizing the positive impact of her cricketing journey. Her words resonate with a sense of fulfilment and purpose, highlighting the joy that comes from pursuing one’s passion and embracing the challenges along the way.

In a message to her fans, Saima encourages them to believe in themselves and their dreams, echoing the importance of resilience and determination in the pursuit of excellence. “Keep believing. Keep dreaming,” she urges, offering words of encouragement that transcend the boundaries of the cricket field.

As the conversation draws to a close, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Saima Thakor’s journey isn’t just about cricket; it’s a narrative of resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of dreams against all odds. In her story, we find echoes of our own struggles and triumphs, reminding us that with perseverance and belief, anything is possible.

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