Smriti Mandhana, in what she termed as a “dream come true” was opening the Indian innings at Lord’s in ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final.
Mumbai: She was nine when India made it to their first ever World Cup final in 2005. 12 years later, 5 days after her 21st birthday, on July 23rd, Smriti Mandhana, in what she termed as a “dream come true” was opening the Indian innings as Mithali Raj’s India faced England at Lord’s in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final. For a girl from Sangli, Maharashtra, “the journey to Lord’s was good” even as India fell agonisingly short of what could have been a famous triumph.
“The journey was good, of course. As a kid, you always dream to play at Lord’s. Unfortunately, we missed playing at Lord’s in 2014 as the match was washed out. But I remember Jhulu didi (Jhulan Goswami) telling me and Shikha (Pandey) that “don’t worry the 2017 World Cup final is at the same ground and if we do well, we will be there”. I think that really happened. It was a dream come true playing before the packed stadium in Lord’s,” she said while addressing the media following the team’s arrival from England in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Smriti set the tone for India’s campaign, smashing a 90 against hosts England in the team’s opening game and followed it with an unbeaten 106 against the West Indies. However, Smriti, who is only the second Indian cricketer alongside Harmanpreet Kaur, to have played in the Women’s Big Bash League, said she is willing to play county cricket if time and the Indian cricket board allow.
“If BCCI allows, then. I think the schedule is very busy for us right now and it is really tough to take time out of this schedule and go play county cricket. But if I get an opportunity and I have a free time, I will definitely like to go and play in those conditions,” Smriti said.
While she got off to a flying start in the ICC event in England, she struggled to continue her form as India progressed to the finals. She was forthcoming as she dissected her struggles.
“Had I known (what was going wrong), I would have performed better. After first two games, I played the next two games (against Pakistan and Sri Lanka) with same confidence. I am disappointed with my shot selection. Barring the final, I don’t think the bowler got me out. I felt I have gifted my wicket. So more than technique, I need to work on my shot selection, I need to decide which ball to be hit, I was going for every shot. That’s the takeaway from the last seven innings where I didn’t do well. Hopefully, I will be a better player next time,” Smriti said on the sidelines of the media interaction in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“My preparations have been the same for the last nine matches. I did not change my preparation at all. Be it my gym sessions or batting sessions. Even I was thinking what had really happened after those two knocks. So, that was something which was haunting me. Generally, when I am out of shape of batting, I perform well. This time when I was in good shape of batting, I was not performing. It was pathetic shot selection I would say. I really played some rash shots which got me out. Except the last match, bowler did not take my wicket, I gifted my wicket. So, next time I will make sure I have a good shot selection,” added the southpaw.
Smriti had her share of ups and downs and her selection for the ICC World Cup 2017 was in jeopardy as the knee troubles kept her away from cricket for the most of the first half of this year, including the World Cup qualifiers. However, Smriti, who once did not take fitness seriously, changed her approach.
“First two days, it was really frustrating. That time I felt my World Cup is gone. I felt something is wrong. Really, badly wrong. But after that I decided to be a different individual altogether and do things which I did not do before injury. I was not keen on fitness before injury and now I am very keen on fitness. I don’t miss my gym sessions, running sessions. I am taking it the positive way,” she said.
“I got injured and it taught me a lot of things. Without injury I would not have learnt these things. That was something that has really motivated me and being in this World Cup,” added Smriti.
While it is clear that she takes her game seriously and has a chip on her shoulders, her remark on her academics was an indicator that she has a good sense of humour.
“I am in first year (of college) for the last three years,” said Smriti amidst a fit of laughter before concluding, “I have not failed, but I am not giving exams.”