Starting the women's IPL will help us a lot: Smriti Mandhana
Red Bull arranged a Q&A session with Smriti Mandhana as part of her 2021 Round Up where she opened up on various things including her century against Australia, World Cup and women's IPL.
Playing tournaments in a bubble
I think bubble life is something which we had not even thought we would experience: like not going out in between matches, that was something which we used to get away from cricket. We used to get off for two days. Now you are around your teammates, you are around cricket more because you are in a bubble. It’s a challenge where you don’t actually get to switch off, and need to find different ways to switch off. But it’s an advantage because we have gotten closer as teammates. Now we know we are going to stay in a bubble for 45 days, so we have each other’s back. For me, the biggest challenge was not getting to switch off in between matches. Sometimes you don’t bat well and you just want to go away from the hotel, maybe go to a movie. That’s what I found tough to start with.
How do you look back to your century against Australia in D/N Test?
It was an amazing experience. When they announced that the Test match was going to happen, about 8-9 months back, I was pretty pumped. I never thought I would be able to experience a D/N Test. When they announced the Test, I ordered pink balls for myself and was going to practice. But I didn’t get to practice, they were just with me for four months in my luggage. Even when I was in England, I kept on looking at the pink balls, I don’t know why I was so excited about it.
When I got to the hundred, I was very happy because I had been thinking about it for the last two months. To actually go out there and get a hundred and put my team in a good position, when the opposition has actually put you into bat, was a good memory.
It was an amazing experience. Especially to watch our pace bowlers bowl in that D/N conditions, swinging around, beating the Aussie batters. When I was batting I didn’t feel much (of a difference). Because when you are batting, you don’t notice the lights, etc. But when you are fielding, you look around, you see the atmosphere is amazing, and you are playing a Test in whites at night! It was something we had only seen on TV, watching the men’s matches. I hope we get to do that quite a lot.
First to score in all three formats?
I didn’t know when I scored that I am the first one. I think Australia has great batting wickets and as a batter, if I don’t score hundreds there, it would have been disappointing.
T20 Leagues in India
Big Bash and the Hundred has been a big success for Australia and England. This is the seventh year for Big Bash and we have seen the kind of transformation and the kind of advantage the Aussie women’s team have because of Big Bash. Any young girl coming in, like in our series there was a girl called Taliya Mcgrather coming in. Everyone thought it was her second or third series. But she was a standout performer because she had six years of experience in Big Bash cricket and she was a top scorer for her team there. That experience made a lot of impact when she came into the team. I’m sure it’s going to help a lot if we start a women’s T20 League, like an IPL or women’s T20 challenge, whatever it’s called. BCCI is working on it.
Red Bull Campus cricket?
The first interaction I had with the Red Bull team, why don’t we start the women’s edition of Campus cricket? It’s going to change a lot of things for college girls. I don’t remember going to a college that had a women’s cricket team. I’m sure because of Red Bull Campus Cricket a lot of more colleges are going to think that, ‘we want to win that,’ and start a women’s team for our college. That will help the domestic structure. Going forward it will have a lot of advantages for the Indian women’s cricket team. We may not get to see the impact in a year or two, but maybe 4-5 years?
Women’s cricket growth in India?
When I started, we didn’t have much. I was the only girl playing with 200-300 boys. Even when I debuted for India, at 16-17, people didn’t know about it. When I used to say I play cricket, people used to say, ‘Oh ladkiyon ki bhi team hai?’ There used to be a lot of question marks. I used to get weird questions like team kab jaati hai? Kaise jaati hai? Cricket bhi same hota hai kya?
But things have changed in the last four years. People not only know there’s an Indian women’s cricket team but they also know our schedules. They follow our performances, we get criticized also, which is a great thing.
Best and worst of 2021?
The best was the Australia tour. Winning would have been another feather cap? The worst was the second Covid wave. Being at home and watching the way people were suffering was quite a lot and would be the worst for the whole of India.
Mental and physical prep for Tests?
I thought I would be playing in a different way in the Test format, and thought I was going to take a lot of time. But I actually ended up being on 30 balls, 35. I saw the scoreboard and told myself, ‘Smriti it’s a test match, start playing slow!’ Jokes aside. Before the Test match, I wanted to be as calm as I could be. It was about just waiting for a bad ball, that was the kind of mindset I had. In T20 and ODIs I would play all the balls, in Test format I was trying to wait for balls that are in my area and not convert any ball. That was the one thing I told myself, don’t just hurry into shots. Try and leave balls.
Five-day tests for women?
If we had a fifth day, we would have ended up winning the match. Now that weather is so unpredictable, there’s going to be rain around. If you are losing about 80% of even one day, getting a result in three days in almost impossible. Maybe you need to give a green grassy wicket for that! But for the kind of wickets we have now, five-day Tests would be pretty cool. Four-day, five-day, I think for me, as many Test matches as possible would be pretty cool.
I have been having small targets, fitness-wise I want to be here, Batting wise I want to be here, this is what I am going to do. Australia and England tour was very important for us as far as team preparation goes. Playing the top two teams before the World Cup is going to give a lot, even though we lost the series, it brought us a lot. That experience is going to help us a lot. Also, we play New Zealand before the World Cup. So we will end up playing the top 3 teams in the span of 6 months before the WC. That’s the kind of preparation we need for the WC.
Personally, I just want to go out and do what I’ve done for the last three years. Not think it’s a World Cup.