Netballer-Turn-Cricket-Player Is All-Rounder
Feature: Shafina Mahesh
At 19 years old, Shafina Mahesh was named captain of the national women’s cricket team. The captaincy came as a shock to the social butterfly of the team when the announcement was made during a regular training session in March 2019.
Her learning curve was steep. From being the prankster of the team, she was suddenly thrust the responsibility of looking after the interests of not just herself, but also her teammates. “It was no longer ‘I’ but ‘we’,” said Shafina. “My whole approach to the game had to change too. I had to sit down and plan goals for the team, and also improve the team dynamics.”
After taking up her new role, Shafina was sent to the “mecca” of cricket, India, for a month-long training stint at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. There, she learnt from top coaches, including legend Rahul Dravid, to hone her skills and develop a deeper understanding of the game.
Naturally, the Singapore Sports School alumna faced challenges in her new role. Firstly, adapting to the leadership position was not as easy as the flick of a switch. There was the added pressure of what expectations the association had of her as captain and how she was going to bring change to the team. Secondly, she had to learn and understand where each of her teammates stood physically and mentally so that she could set clearer goals for the team. But with the help of her teammates, coach and father, who was the first person to introduce the sport to her, she soon grew into the role and learnt to overcome the challenges she faced.
“There will always be challenges, previously as a team player and now as a captain. But being captain also opened up opportunities for me to improve the environment in the team. Having all players on the same page and aligned goals was very important as it would set the foundation for the team’s progress. My coach and I also encourage every member to have their personal goals. Ultimately, we want the team to be constantly striving for improvement.”
Shafina was 11 years old when she picked up cricket and has been playing the sport for a decade. She dabbled in a few sports in primary school, namely cheerleading and netball, and eventually joined the Sports School’s Netball Academy in Secondary 1 in 2012. While she continued her weekly cricket training, cricket took a backseat while she focused on netball for the next four years. Shafina returned to the sport after graduating from Sports School in 2015, and two years later, was selected to be part of the 15-women cricket team to compete at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
The captain, an all-rounder who plays a batsman and bowler – and previously a wicketkeeper, hopes to see her team participate in more international tournaments, including representing Singapore at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup Qualifier. A goal she has for the Singapore women’s team, which is now ranked World No. 47, is to break into the top 20 within the next three years. Thailand, the top Southeast Asian country, is at No. 11. Personally, Shafina’s dream is to play for an international team one day.
Apart from her national team commitments, Shafina is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) offered by SIM-RMIT University. She also finds time to be a teacher assistant at MindChamps, as well as coach cricket at The Winstedt School, an international school for children with learning difficulties.