Issy Wong is quintessentially a player made for the Indian Premier League (IPL). She smashes, she bowls thunderbolts and she entertains, making her weight in gold. There is a certain aura that surrounds her, there is ferocious aggressiveness that comes with the age that makes her stand-out amidst some level-headed greats of the game.
The 20-year-old used to rush back home to not miss out on the IPL munching on her favourite snacks. If that isn’t quintessential, she has grown up admiring Mumbai Indians, a franchise that would then later go on to change her life. Everything that surrounds the youngster screams of entertainment.
When Mumbai signed her for a price of INR 30 lakh, it was her entire life coming to a fruitful circle. She didn’t anymore have to wear a replica jersey of her favourite franchise, she didn’t any longer travel all the way from Chelsea to Mumbai to watch her favourite team. She didn’t also have to pay a bomb to be part of the crowd.
Because now others were going to pay to watch her.
Other kids in the world were going to grow up watching her dazzle for Mumbai, and maybe 10-15 years down the line, would be hailing her as the role model. Growing up in the Gen-Z era, Wong is all fast-paced cricket, exciting action and challenging the ethos of the game that was held as sacrilegious.
All that she ever wanted in her life was to bowl fast. As fast as her life changed in the last three years.
“No, no, no, focus. Speed. Faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning..”
You remember this dialogue from the movie, Cars? You might have forgotten it but there is a strong chance that Wong remembers it word-by-word. When the movie was released in 2006, Wong was just three. But it is a movie that had a long-lasting impression on her career.
In that movie, the protagonist, all that Lightning McQueen wanted to do was drive fast. Inspired by the character, all that Wong wanted to do is bowl fast. Life is a highway for Wong, and she is currently bowling like on a highway, at 70 miles per hour.
The movie had a huge role to play in shaping the personality of the English all-rounder. It also is the reason why she is donning the jersey no. 95 on her back, inspired from the lead of the movie.
“When I first did Super League, they announced the squad numbers and I picked 95 on the back of my shirt. A journalist wrote that I was 24 because they assumed I’d picked it as it was my birth year – actually it was a reference to Cars’ lead character, Lightning McQueen, who has the racing number 95. He wanted to be fast, I want to bowl fast, so it works!" Wong told Glorious Sport.
When Wong started playing cricket, Mumbai Indians were the last team on her mind, all that she wanted to do was for people to notice. In her own words, not everyone wants to play cricket at the highest level, some just want to enjoy cricket.
But it is ironic coming from the 20-year-old, who not only is playing cricket at the highest level but is also enjoying her way to the top. Her rapid rise is well documented, and it is evident from the fact that you search ‘Issy Wong’ on Google, and you would instantly find the link to England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s YouTube video - England Women - The Next Generation!
When she made her debut, Wong became the first woman of East Asian descent to represent England in international cricket.
But what she did was more, she inspired the next generation of East Asian cricketers to believe.
Cricket isn’t Wong’s only sport. When away from the game, she would rather sit on her couch and watch Liverpool or Golden State Warriors. Both are proven winners. Wong had the privilege to grow up watching a dynasty that was the Warriors.
"I love sport and watching sports that aren’t cricket is a good thing," Wong told The Cricketer.
But her love for Liverpool started when she was pretty young - six months. She switches off from cricket but at the same time, the all-rounder keeps a keen eye on picking up a personality trait or two from the proven winners, across sports and across teams, including keeping an eye on Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, even when he is playing for their rivals.
"It’s a good switch off but also you look at the behaviours of Curry or Henderson or Rashford. They’re athletes, role models, they’re putting the hours in and they’re at the top of their game, but they’re also making a massive difference off the court or off the pitch,” she added.
Now, Wong is with serial winners, Mumbai Indians. A franchise that doesn’t need to be taught about how to win. Mumbai going all guns blazing for the English all-rounder isn’t a coincidence, it is a relationship that is destined to work.
The right-arm speedster isn’t a one-trick pony. Pace is her everything but at the same time, she has the unique ability to swing the ball both ways. Then there are the different types of slower deliveries. Since her debut, Wong has played 23 matches, and picked up just 17 wickets but the hype is real.
"I always have that mindset of 'I want to make things happen', especially in T20 cricket. Whether I've got the bat in hand or ball in hand or in the field, how can I make something happen for my team here? Whether that's hitting a boundary to release pressure, taking a wicket or saving runs on the field, I guess that's always trying to add value to your team,” Wong told the New Indian Express.
March 09, 2023, Wong turned all heads around when she bowled one heck of a spell against the Delhi Capitals women, picking up three wickets. In eight games this Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, Wong has picked up eight wickets, averaging 19.1.
Even with the bat, she hasn’t got plenty of opportunities but whenever there was a chance, she has taken it with both hands, scoring her runs with a strike-rate of 132.6. Like Lightning McQueen, Wong wants to make things happen, and happen at a rapid pace, and her career is just the tipping point of her talent.
Mumbai might have lost a bit of fizz in the last couple of weeks but if Issy Wong gets going, the trophy isn’t far away from their reach. Issy Wong is just getting started.