Deepti Sharma may not be leading the UP Warriorz in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League, but the all-rounder has an important role in the team.
Being the vice-captain, she wants to contribute to the team’s success in each and every department. In a chat with Sportstar, the India international shares her thoughts on the team’s performance so far and also makes it clear that she would continue to play her natural game as the tournament progresses.
It was an exciting game against Gujarat Giants, where UP Warrioz pulled off a fascinating win, despite struggling at a point. As Grace Harris looked set to guide the team home, Warriorz captain Alyssa Healy asked her to calm down. If you could tell us what was the mood in the dugout around that time?
The match was turning Gujarat Giants’ way when Grace Harris entered the scene. The way she played, we slowly bounced back. But since the match was still not over, I did not want to show my emotions. Healy was trying to calm her down, because when a player hits sixes or boundaries, the level of excitement goes up. But at that time, it is important to control your nerves and approach the situation calmly, so that’s what Healy was trying to convey to Harris. They play together, so Healy knows how to handle Harris and calm her down. So, it was a good move.
All this while, you and Healy would be rivals in the international circuit, but now you are playing together in the same team. While she is the captain of UP Warriorz, you are her deputy. How has been the experience so far?
Obviously, it feels good because all this while we played against each other, but this time, we are playing together. We are enjoying each other’s company and the more we talk about the team and the players, the more experience we share. She tells me a few things, whereas I discuss with her about the youngsters in the team, and this has helped the team so far. We hope to continue with a similar approach going forward because it would help us in assessing situations better. The more we talk, we will be able to plan the strategies better and can decide on the team combination and how to get the best out of the youngsters. That’s our focus for now.
Many of your teammates, including Harmanpreet Kaur, believe that the WPL experience will eventually help Indian players break the World Cup title jinx. What are your thoughts?
Yes. Though it would be difficult to erase the memory of that T20 World Cup semifinal defeat against Australia, the good thing is, the WPL started soon after, so we could sort of move on from the disappointment. Here, the conditions are different, the players are different, so that does divert your mind.
How did you mentally prepare yourself for the WPL after the T20 World Cup heartbreak?
When you play T20, your mindset remains the same. Obviously, situations are different, and you need to react and plan accordingly. But the mindset remains unchanged, whether you play in South Africa or in India. We are used to the Indian conditions, so it gets easier for us. Going forward, I am trying to improve my overall game and win one game at a time.
You play a fearless brand of cricket, similar to that of Healy or Grace. So, is your game being influenced by the players around you?
Every player has a different role in the team. Some believe in hitting sixes, while others prefer hitting boundaries or settling for singles and twos. When we play against these players, they take us to the cleaners and hit us for fours and sixes at will. You obviously don’t enjoy that situation. But when you play for the same team, you get to enjoy those moments because overall the team benefits. So yeah, we all back ourselves and rely on our natural game.
The all-rounders dominated the WPL auction. As the tournament progresses, how do you see the role of the all-rounders?
Being an all-rounder, I feel that we have expertise in all the three departments. Even the team expects you to deliver in every department - be it in batting or bowling - and contribute. The all-rounders have more responsibilities and even the captains show a lot of confidence in them and expect good results.
Many in the cricketing circuit, including India’s batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, believe that the secret of your success is the high-intensity training which is very close to match situations. If you could explain what you do in those situations? How do you prepare?
When we train in the nets, I always treat it as a match-situation. I plan my innings accordingly and that approach helps. When I bat or in the nets, I don’t treat it as just a training session, but for me, it is like playing an actual game. If you approach a game with such a mindset and have solid preparation, things get easier for you. You remain in that zone and that certainly benefits me.
How much of an advantage is it for the teams now that the tournament is being held across two venues in Mumbai?
It helps a lot. Since you are playing in just one city, you can focus more on the games. So, even though you are playing two back-to-back games, the fact that there is no travel involved, makes it easy for the players. When you constantly travel from one city to another and play continuously, adjusting to the conditions becomes a challenge. But playing in one city and in just two grounds helps the player get enough time for recovery, which is beneficial in such a tournament.
Though you look calm and composed off the pitch, you are aggressive on the pitch and not even afraid of running out a non-striker if she is walking out of the crease. Do we see a similar Deepti in the WPL, too, or will you try to be different?
When you enter the ground, you need to enjoy the moment despite being serious about your game. You have to play according to the situation. In the WPL, I plan to be cool and calm and read the game better according to the situation. You need to be serious, alert on the ground and make the most of the opportunities in a bid to contribute to the team’s success. That approach helps me as a player.
Your run-out of Charlie Dean in the final ODI against England last year triggered controversy, with a section of the cricketing fraternity criticising your move. How did you handle those criticisms and focus on your game?
On that day, I did not even bother to check what’s going on in social media. It was just a normal run-out for me, and I did not read too much between the lines. I took it easy and just focused on my game.
With Healy as the captain and Lisa Sthalekar as a mentor, what have been the discussions in the dressing room so far?
Though Healy looks aggressive on the field, she is a very cool and calm player and a lovely human being. She supports her players and in each and every situation, she walks up to the players and helps them out. Whenever anyone has a query, she is always ready to help. If we can help each other, we will be able to play as a unit and yield better results. That has been the conversation.
What are your targets in the WPL and what are the areas you need to work on?
I want to follow the same approach as the T20 World Cup or the Tri-series. I want to contribute to team’s success in every department. I want to keep a positive mindset and approach one game at a time.
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