Smriti Mandhana Applauds Indian Captains’ Title Wins

Smriti Mandhana feels the time post WPL 2023 failure to now winning the title in 2024 has been a huge learning curve for her, in terms of trusting herself and being calm during the match…reports Asian Lite News

After Royal Challengers Bangalore grabbed its first-ever trophy in franchise T20 cricket competitions in India via the WPL 2024 title, captain Smriti Mandhana feels the trend of Indian skippers leading their respective teams to title triumphs augurs well for Indian women’s cricket from a leadership perspective.

Last year, Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur became the inaugural WPL winning captain at the Brabourne Stadium. On Sunday, it was Smriti’s turn to etch herself as a WPL-winning skipper when RCB beat Delhi Capitals by eight wickets in front of 29,131 fans at the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

“Last year when Mumbai Indians played Delhi Capitals in the final, even though I have many friends in Delhi. But somewhere deep down I wanted Harman to lift the trophy because in the first edition of the WPL, if an Indian captain had to win, if not me it had to be Harman.”

“So, I was really happy at that time for MI and whole team. Little did I know that I will be the second Indian captain to win WPL. I am really happy and that really shows the kind of depth Indian cricket has and this is just the start, we still have a long way to go in terms of Indian captains,” said a jubilant Smriti in the post-match press conference.

After Richa Ghosh hit the winning boundary by lofting Arundhati Reddy over mid-on, all RCB players ran onto the field. Smriti took time to emerge and shook hands with everyone before disappearing into the dressing room and then re-emerged on the ground ten minutes later, even as others were doing the ‘Naatu Naatu’ step under the choreography of an excited Shreyanka Patil.

“The first thing I did was I went to the dressing room and sat, that’s my way of celebration to do. It’s hard to celebrate the way others do. I don’t know, there’s some defect,” said Smriti, with the glittering WPL trophy alongside her.

She was also pleased with Richa hitting winning runs for RCB’s title, after she was left in tears last week when the side lost to DC by one run. “The game got dragged a bit more than what we would have liked for sure but I’m happy Richa got to finish it. She had a bit of unfinished business. I had spoken to her about this, and I’m very happy she got to score the winning run. That it came off her bat, not mine. I’m really happy about that.”

The left-handed opener then gave a big shout-out to the fans who watched WPL games live and to the RCB management, who were subjected to ridicule for almost 17 years whenever their prophecy of ‘Ee Saala Cup Namde’ (this time, the cup will be ours), fell flat in IPL, including in last year’s WPL, when the team finished at fourth place.

“More than anything, the way the fans have turned up in each and every match in Bangalore or Delhi and the management, they’ve gone through so much in the last 15 years being so close and all of that. They’ve just been amazing throughout. Even last year, when we were not doing well, the only conversation they had was ‘Are you okay?’ which meant a lot as a player.

“When the management shows that kind of thing (faith), there’s something you want to play for and win for. The first thought for me was, ‘Wow the fans of RCB as a franchise are going to be so happy. The management are all in tears’. I was really happy to see them and this whole group.”

“We’ve been through a lot in this tournament from the time when we didn’t know we’d make the Eliminator, to that crazy Eliminator and then this final. The whole group just stuck at it. One thing we did for sure was flight back. Even today, I think we fought back really well. Maybe it is difficult for me to individually express, but there’s a lot of gratitude for the fans and the franchise as a whole and this whole group,” she added.

Last year, Smriti couldn’t notch up a half-century and falling to off-spinners majorly. After WPL 2023 ended, Smriti wasn’t a part of WBBL 2023 in Australia and instead, spent time playing in the domestic cricket competitions in India, to get a better understanding of the domestic players, apart from Luke Williams replacing Ben Sawyer as RCB’s head coach.

She feels the time post WPL 2023 failure to now winning the title in 2024 has been a huge learning curve for her, in terms of trusting herself and being calm during the match. “The one thing I’ve learnt is to believe in myself. I thought that’s something that I lacked. Last year when it did go wrong, I doubted myself. That was a real conversation internally that I need to keep trusting myself. That was the biggest learning for me.”

“Even in the match, six overs 60 (61 runs by DC in power-play) – we’d planned a few things which didn’t go our way. A few field sets didn’t go our way. But the only thing which stayed constant was the belief I had. I was not really panicked about it; I was really calm, which was a real learning for me, that was great.”

“I could have that clear conversation with the bowlers because the Indian batters were coming (to bat). So I spoke to them about bowling certain balls and seeing what they do. Eventually those wickets came. So, it was about being very clear (instead) when that panic button is pressed. Most importantly, it was about keeping faith in myself and my team.”

“It’s not like I haven’t played in this gear when I play for the India team when we’re chasing a low total. I do try and stay till whatever time I can on the field to take us home. There’s a fine balance in T20 cricket, especially when you’re batting first as an opener to understand what the conditions and the wicket is like.”

“You don’t want to be too defensive or too aggressive because you don’t know what’s a perfect total sometimes when you’re batting first. Going a bit easy on myself is definitely something to think about but, naturally, I like to try and play a few shots which, I think, will remain the same,” she concluded.

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