Super Overs are nothing new to Smriti Mandhana. In her career, she has been part of it quite a few times for Maharashtra and also in the Women’s Big Bash League.
But until Sunday evening, she did not feature in any Super Overs at the international level. So, while walking out to bat against Australia in the second T20I at the DY Patil Stadium, along with Richa Ghosh, Smriti did not know how to approach the situation.
Richa decided to face the first ball and started the proceedings with a six off debutant Heather Graham, and that ‘wow six’ was an eye-opener for Smriti, who then took charge with a four and a six to guide India to 20-1 before bowler Renuka Thakur restricted Australia to 16.
“Today, I was pretty blank. I did not think that I would have to do this. When Richa hit that first six, I was excited and I am not a very out-there person, who people can understand what is going on in my head, but that six was so massive that I was like, ‘wow’!,” Smriti said in an interaction after the game.
“After Richa got out, me and Harman (captain Harmanpreet Kaur) spoke about it and we knew that we could not afford to lose wickets. So, we just had to try and hit the boundary, rather than hitting a six. Because, this is a different rule as compared to the Big Bash, where all ten could bat. But here it was different,” she said.
“If we would have got out, our innings would have ended there. So, we had to be a bit smart and try and hit boundaries,” she said, admitting that she did not plan to hit a six, but it just happened. “I had actually aimed at a boundary but it went for a six. I was really, really blank.”
With 45,000 spectators attending the game, there was no dearth of cheers and support for the home side. And, as this Super Over was the first for the Indian team, Smriti believes that going forward, this experience will help immensely. “This game is going to help massively. The T20 World Cup is still some time away, but our first aim is to win this series. The way the first game went, to come back and win it in this fashion, that is going to boost up the confidence of all the girls.”
Smriti did not have a memorable outing in the first T20I as she failed to convert a good start, but on Sunday, coming up with a positive mindset, she went on scoring 79 (49b, 9x4, 4x6).
“I was very disappointed in the first match and Mumbai wickets are very good to bat on. To get out on these wickets is actually disappointing. It is like you have actually taken a chance out of yourself because we do not get as many good wickets as that,” she said.
“While chasing today, I did not want to make the same mistake that I did in the last match. Once a wicket falls, we get stuck for a few overs in terms of run rate, so in my head, I was trying to take it deep. I trusted people around me to hit sixes and I wanted to be there. Unfortunately, I do not know what shot I played!”
After settling in perfectly, Smriti tried to hit an Annabel Sutherland delivery over the fine leg but was played on, with a thick edge hitting the middle stump. “When I was walking back after playing that shot, I told Richa, ‘Khatam kar ke aana hai.’ She replied, ‘haan didi’. I knew she would finish it off. I would have loved to be on the other end, but next time, I would try not to hit a stupid shot,” Smriti said with a smile.
“Right from the Commonwealth Games, I have been timing well. Now, it is also about calculating it well. We have a bigger responsibility in the batting order now. As a batting unit, we want to work a bit more on our first innings batting and be a bit more calculative. It is not the easiest thing to do and every team struggles in the first innings in T20s and as a team, we want to improve on that.”
After Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath guided Australia to 187-1 in 20 overs, India knew that it would require an aggressive approach to chase down a mammoth total, and right from the beginning, the Women in Blue showed intent, with both Smriti and Shafali Verma stepping up.
“185 pe kya karenge? Bang bang jana hi padega,” she said wearing a smile on her face. “We have days when one of us goes there and bats well. Today, when we chased 185, we actually did not go bang bang like the way we do. We were a bit more calculative. It is good on her as well, whenever she hit a six, she actually looked to take a single as well. This was the most mature Powerplay we had. Going bang bang is very easy, but to chase such a total, a bit more calculative approach helps.”
Smriti, however, did not expect that the match would go to the Super Over and that she would come out and hit those shots. But now that the series is levelled at 1-1, Smriti says the team is trying to adapt to close matches.
“Australia is an amazing team. But we all back ourselves… We have given them amazing fights, but close matches are something that the whole Indian team is trying to work on. Not many things go our way, but people are adapting to the pressure. Chasing 45 off 25 balls, maybe a year ago, the Indian team would have thought otherwise, but we have match-winners now. The way Deepti, Richa, Devika batted, they are developing well.”
While Richa and Shafali have had a fine series so far, they are set to miss out on the last game as they would be travelling to Bengaluru for the U-19 camp ahead of the Women’s U-19 World Cup, scheduled to be played in South Africa in January next year.
“For Richa and Shafali, it is a wonderful opportunity to be part of the first-ever U-19 women’s World Cup. When we were 16 or 17, we all hoped that this would start, but now that it is happening now, for them experiencing it will boost their confidence. When they are not around, two new girls might get an opportunity in the Indian team, so that we know what our bench strength is,” Smriti said, making it clear that the immediate target of the team is to win the ongoing series.
The remaining three games will be played at the Brabourne Stadium.