Team India ready to take on South Africa in the third ODI against South Africa at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on March 12. After starting with a defeat, they bounced back well and equalled the series. However, India opener Smriti Mandhana on Thursday said that it is “easier to calculate an innings” when the team is batting second with a target to reach as well.
Currently, both team stands at 1-1 with three ODIs left. While Mandhana started well in the first ODI but couldn’t carry the momentum, she smashed an unbeaten 80 to help her side win. “Whenever I go out to bat, I just have one target, and that is to make India win the match. And that’s the only thing I keep thinking about,” Smriti Mandhana said during a pre-match press conference.
“When they (opponents) have runs on the board, it is easier to calculate your innings. Not that I like batting first or second. I like batting in any given conditions. Just to win the match for India is something I keep thinking about whether we are batting first or second,” she added.
However, she praised South Africa’s pace-duo of Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail and added that changing the game plan against them is a challenge when they are doing well from both ends. “Both are top pacers in the world. The special thing is that they are really different in the way they both go about their bowling. One likes to bounce a player out, the other relies on her seam. It becomes really difficult as a batter to change your gear. The lines and lengths that Kapp and Ismail bowl are really different,” she expressed.
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“For me as a batter, I just like to react to the ball and not think about how they bowl. I’ve been facing them for five-six years, so I know their strengths and what they are going to target. For me, it’s just about watching the ball and playing according to the ball. That’s my only strategy against them,” she further added.
While she was asked about the win in the last match and what was her mindset while batting, she said that she tried to keep things simple and not think too much as well. “I don’t think much about the pressure,” Smriti Mandhana said. “For me, batting is just reaction, reacting to what the bowler is bowling. So my mental preparation is to remain as blank as I can be. Whenever I think before going to bat, I don’t do as well as I can. I try to keep things simple and not complicate myself with too much thought.”
However, with her swashbuckling knock, she became the first player to score 10 consecutive 50+ scores in ODI run chases. However, she revealed that she was not aware of it, “I got to know after the second ODI that I was the first to achieve the feat…”
While she has returned to big scores, her opening partner Jemimah Rodrigues has failed to do well in both games. Jemimah Rodrigues, who was run out by Shabnim Ismail for a 20-ball 9, Mandhana accepted her mistake for the dismissal and also backed the youngster. “Generally, I don’t run such risky runs. I judged that run quite wrong and Ismail came quickly. It’s something that I’ll keep in mind, which fielders I have to target,” she told.
“We have come off a one-year break, so as for now we’re just going out there to go and play some good cricket… After a long break, it takes time to get things correct. Even with Jemi, it’s not about her form because she’s batting well in the nets, and that’s why she even started in the match but last match’s wicket was unfortunate. The entire team is confident that Jemi will come back stronger in the third match,” she again shared.
While Smriti Mandhana said that the bowling unit needs to perform consistently as they did in the second ODI, she also added that the focus is on how to improve the fielding, running between the wickets and fitness as well.
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“The bowlers looked really good in the last match, so we want to be consistent with our bowling. One thing we’re working on, post-2017 World Cup, is our fitness and fielding. That’s the whole plan for the next one year. Skills can go and come but fitness and fielding standard has to go up and that’s what we’re aiming for in the next one year. Hopefully, we get to a place where we are fielding and running really well between the wickets,” she said.
While she was asked if it was important to focus on rotating strike at the beginning, she said that as a batter one needs to be calculative. “I think singles, doubles, fours, sixes all are important, as a batter it depends on which bowler you are facing. You have to be very calculative as a batter. I just try to play according to the ball. That’s the only mindset I have, nothing like I have to score singles, fours or sixes against anyone,” she said.
Meanwhile, India captain Mithali Raj is on the verge of achieving a rare feat. She needs 35 runs to become the second woman to score 10,000 runs in international cricket. And, Smriti Mandhana heaped praises to her captain. “We are all aware that she’s going to reach 10,000 runs. It’s amazing. Whenever she gets to 10,000 runs, we as a team will be very proud of her. That will be a terrific moment for Indian team overall. It shows how consistent she has been throughout her career. We all look up to her for her consistency,” she expressed.
While India’s return to the Test cricket is going around as the BCCI secretary Jay Shah tweeted that India will play a one-off Test against England later this year, Mandhana opened up about this as well.
“I’m not sure when the Test match is happening but it has been announced and we all are really excited. When we played there last we’ve had really good memories of that Test match. It’s the feeling of putting on whites and going into bat with three slips and a gully, we don’t get to do that much. That feeling as a batter I crave whenever I watch a men’s Test match. It’ll be exciting to go out there after six years and play a Test,” she added.
Meanwhile, she also shared her views on if the team needed a mental conditioning coach where she said it will definitely help. “Well, at the moment the girls are in a very good space. First of all we have come back after a long break and everyone is fresh and want to play. But, definitely, a mental conditioning coach or a mentor will be good for a lot of the girls. And, definitely, the BCCI is looking into it and we will have something going into the World Cup,” Smriti Mandhana concluded.