From playing guitar for Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan to dancing the salsa, Isa Guha has had an eventful time since retiring from cricket. One of England’s most successful players has turned her hand to music reporting, TV presenting and studying neuroscience after a decade playing.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
Isa made her name as a leading bowler who won 113 England caps, lifted the World Cup twice and triumphed in three Ashes series before retiring from international cricket – at the grand old age of 26. She is currently in India as a TV presenter for the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
In an interview with Entouraaj, Isa said she has met Bollywood stars since working on the IPL but her encounter with Kolkata Knight Riders' owner Shah Rukh Khan didn’t go to plan.
“I was at an after-match party when I was introduced to Shah Rukh Khan. He was so humble and it was a real pleasure to meet him. “We all gathered in a circle and Brett Lee [cricketer] was playing his guitar. In an attempt to look cool I asked him to pass it over so I could play 'Wonderwall' - which is one of the easiest songs to play ever. “All eyes were on me when I started strumming but then I realised the guitar had been tuned differently and I couldn’t fix it. “I continued to play but it sounded terrible so I stopped and passed it back after what felt like the biggest anticlimax. SRK looked so unimpressed. It was an epic fail haha!”
British Asian Trust & Sporting Equals Charities
The 28-year-old still has a passion for the sport and getting young girls to take up professional cricket. Isa, an ambassador for the British Asian Trust and Sporting Equals charity, said most Asian girls are quitting the game in their teens “because of a lack of support from parents or because they are pulled towards studies”.The biochemistry graduate added: “I always try to get the message across that it is possible to do both. “I went to university while I was playing for England and many of the girls in the side have done the same. “Things might change now that the England team has recently gone professional which is a huge step towards women's cricket in this country. “Younger girls might see it as an actual career path now.”
I noticed a definite attitude from the masses to suggest that women can't play
The Buckinghamshire-born presenter, who made her England debut in 2001, believes another boost for potential players is attitudes are changing and women’s cricket is getting more respect.“Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any derogatory comments, High Wycombe [school] were very supportive of me playing with the boys. “However, as I grew up in the game, I noticed a definite attitude from the masses to suggest that women can't play. “But these days I sense a real culture shift in the perceptions of women's cricket as the game has developed. “Well-known names like Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock and Nasser Hussain have commentated on the women's game recently and given it the respect it deserves. “I believe increasing numbers are taking the game seriously.”
Asian Cricket Awards
As part of her role with the British Asian Trust, Isa is also backing the first Asian Cricket Awards this winter which includes a prize for the best female player.
“I think these awards are important to recognise the thousands of men and women in this country who give their time to developing and attracting interest in the game. “The support from the England and Wales Cricket Board will also encourage links to form between these communities and the overall governing of the game in this country, rather than being isolated. “Furthermore, it will also help to discover an untapped wealth of talent, many of whom could go on to play for England.”
A challenge that all male and female cricketers face is keeping your place in the team and the focus on a player’s statistics in a team game. The issue of pressure in cricket is back in the spotlight after England’s Jonathan Trott announced he is taking a second break from the game due to mental health problems.
When you're under pressure you can't have any doubt in your ability to perform...
Isa, who was once ranked as the number one bowler in the world, believes the women’s game needs to develop support for players as the sport becomes more demanding.
”I think it is more prominent in the men's game because the guys are away from home for a large percentage of the year. “However, the women's game is constantly evolving and the demands are growing so I think it is important to anticipate these changes by having the right tools in place to recognise and assist those with stress-related illnesses.”
She added: “We've all had our moments when things haven't gone well. It does affect you mentally but there was never really any outlet to say anything because that would be considered weak. “However, there is a difference between having a slump, after a string of bad performances, and having a stress-related illness. Until depression is quantifiable, there will always be a certain disparity.”
So how do you handle the intense pressure of playing for your country or presenting on TV with billions of people around the globe watching you? Isa believes the key is preparation and learning from experience.
“I trained as hard as possible to make sure I was fully prepared. Knowing I’ve done everything off the pitch gives me a lot of confidence going into games. “When you're under pressure you can't have any doubt in your ability to perform - you just have to focus on the task in hand.”
She added: “When I started presenting, I had no formal training but even so, I tried to embrace the opportunity and used my cricket knowledge to get me through. “It was tough because I could feel the red light and I could sense that there were eyes on me. “As time has gone on I've started to enjoy those situations and experience has taught me things will inevitably go wrong - it just depends on how you deal with those moments.”
Along with the nerves of making her IPL presenting debut in 2011, Isa also had to dance on stage. She revealed she would like to have become a musician due to her family’s love for a song.
“I grew up listening to 90s Britpop and dance music, which was all down to my brother’s influence. “I also had a very musically-inclined family, so I grew up with music. My grandma was a singer in Kolkata and my mum used to sing too. “My uncles also sang and played Indian instruments and my cousins are in bands. “Even now, I’m still surrounded by music as my boyfriend’s in a band.”
So can we expect a dance number or two from Isa during this year’s IPL?
“Haha, to be honest, I think I've exhausted all my dance moves now but let’s see!”