Shikha Pandey: Winning the series more important than player of the match award

Shikha Pandey helped India take an unassailable 2-0 series lead with bowling figures of four for 18, which wasn't enough for her to win the player of the match award.

Shikha Pandey celebrates taking the wicket of England's Georgia Elwiss.   -  AFP

“Are you surprised that you didn’t get the Player of the Match award?”

That’s the first question Shikha Pandey faced as she walked in for the post-match interaction.

After all, it had been a day to remember for her as she scalped four wickets for 18 runs -- her best bowling figures in ODIs. It wasn't enough, and Jhulan Goswami received that award.

Shikha was perhaps not hoping for the bouncer. She paused for a while and replied with a smile: “I am above all that now, so it doesn’t really matter to me whether I am the player of the match or not. We won the series and for me that’s more than enough. The way I have been able to contribute, for me and myself, I am the player of the match.”

So far, Shikha has scalped six wickets this series and she credits India coach, W. V. Raman, for helping her out. During the Challengers Trophy last December, Raman had come to watch her play and observing closely, he had advised her a few things.

“I have worked [on those areas] a lot to be consistent. I have put in those many number of practice hours and I’m trying to work hard [to be consistent]. There were a few technical issues, which were brought to my notice by Raman sir, I was very surprised that I did not realise those [issues] earlier,” Shikha said. “He (Raman) has been that assuring face in the dressing room. He is someone who you can speak [to] about bowling and he is always there with an opinion about it,” she added.

Those small ‘tips’ by Raman has actually helped her boost the confidence. And she is happy to have contributed to the team’s success.

But how has it been pairing with Jhulan?

“Actually both of us (me and Jhulan) are very different bowlers. She is more of a seam bowler, I am a swing bowler. I am only trying to match her,” she said. “The kind of bowler she is, I have got huge standards to meet, so I am trying to hold up the other end, to bowl in tandem with her,” Shikha stated.

She also admitted that over the years, she has learned a lot from Jhulan. “I have learned a lot from her. Her work ethics, for example. She is 35-36 and for her to continue with her international career and bowl so well (is unbelievable),” she said. “Work ethics is something I could learn from her, also the way she fights back in her second spell. There are lot of things, the list is really long,” Shikha said.

Read: Goswami, Pandey give India unassailable series lead

Despite being one of the key members in the squad, consistency has been a major area of concern for the 29-year-old and she admitted that she has brought in a few changes to be in a "very good head space".

“I have stopped brooding a lot. I am an over-thinker and for starters, I am not following any [cricket] writings. So, there are lot of things that I have done. My focus has narrowed a lot. That is helping me and I will continue to do that,” she said.

When India travelled to the West Indies for the World T20, last November, Shikha was dropped from the side. Did that exclusion motivate her to come back stronger?

“Getting dropped from the World T20 side [was] something which is not in my hands, so I am only trying to kind of help myself with the things that are in my control. I seem to be bowling well in the nets and I am just taking confidence from it. I wouldn’t say that getting dropped from the T20 side has sparked something in me,” Shikha said, making it clear that her focus has now shifted to the third game, which will be played at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

England captain, Heather Knight, also heaped praises on Shikha. “She swung the ball consistently. She came back for her second spell and still swung the ball. She didn’t give us much to hit. She was very disciplined with the line and length in which she bowled,” Knight said.

After struggling against spin in the opener, England was outclassed by the pace duo of Shikha and Jhulan and Knight said that in both the games, the batters have ‘not given’ true account of themselves. “We have not lived up to the way, we know, we can play. Being three down in a any game is very difficult to win and drag it back. India bowled very well. They made it very difficult for us and didn’t give us many scoring opportunities and created opportunities throughout the innings,” Knight said. She, however, praised Natalie Sciver. “I though Nat Sciver was exceptional and the way she played, she didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. Her partnership with Alexa took us to the score we thought we could defend. But it wasn’t to be today. As a batting unit we are very disappointed,” the captain said.