WPL 2024: How a bad ball turned things around for RCB’s Shreyanka Patil

RCB’s improved performances in the past week have coincided with Shreyanka regaining her mojo. The turning point was a bad ball that Lanning dispatched to the boundary in RCB’s one-run loss to DC.

Published : Mar 17, 2024 13:25 IST , NEW DELHI - 14 MINS READ

Royal Challengers Bangalore bowler Shreyanka Patil after scalping the wicket of Delhi Capitals captain Meg Lanning.
Royal Challengers Bangalore bowler Shreyanka Patil after scalping the wicket of Delhi Capitals captain Meg Lanning. | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV/ The Hindu

Royal Challengers Bangalore bowler Shreyanka Patil after scalping the wicket of Delhi Capitals captain Meg Lanning. | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV/ The Hindu

During the Interzonal One-Day tournament in January-February this year, there was a day when South Zone captain Shreyanka Patil was having a poor day at the office. Her West Zone counterpart, Smriti Mandhana, went up to her to console her and she broke down. 

“I can be myself around Smriti,” Shreyanka remembered. “I wasn’t happy with my bowling. She reassured me and said, “It’s okay. March 17th, you’re going to do it for us.”

True to word, Shreyanka would pick three wickets giving away a miserly 12 runs in 3.3 overs to help Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Delhi Capitals to lift its maiden Women’s Premier League title. 

Cricket is a game filled with characters of every variety. You have the quiet geniuses on one end who believe their sport and skill can do the talking for them and then there’s this other bunch – loud, proud, happy to show their swagger on the field as much as they do off it. Shreyanka belongs to this second kind. 

After Richa Ghosh hit the winning runs, Shreyanka – along with a number of her roommates – was unstoppable. She was dancing constantly, coordinating group steps for the team; jumping on people, hugging people. It’s like no one was watching, no inhibitions, no limits. As the team posed by the champions’ photo op area, Shreyanka stood before it, dancing away to glory, like a little ballerina too immersed in her performance to have a thought for the world. 

“I just wanted to be myself.I told Smriti, please don’t stop me today. I just want to be myself. She was like, “All yours’” she said. 

This was a marked difference to how her season began. The 21-year-old got off to an underwhelming start in WPL season two. In her first match (against UP Warriorz), she conceded 32 runs without a wicket in three overs. Against Gujarat Giants, she conceded 13 runs in a single over bowled. Against an imposing Delhi Capitals, she gave away 40 runs in three overs, getting a wicket too while she gave away 15 runs in two overs for a wicket against Mumbai Indians.

WPL 2024 final preview | Delhi Capitals starts as favourite against Bangalore as both franchises eye maiden title win

“Shreyanka was the first one to come up and say, ‘I am not bowling well.’ She didn’t need me or anyone else to go to her with that. She came and asked, ‘I am not bowling well. What can I do?’ She’ll come up with the solutions too. That’s her character,” Malolan Rangarajan, RCB’s assistant coach, revealed after the Eliminator where the side beat MI for the second time in a week to make its maiden final.

That week, RCB’s improved performances coincided with Shreyanka regaining her mojo. The turning point was oddly a bad ball Meg Lanning dispatched to the boundary ropes in RCB’s one-run loss to DC in Delhi.

“She knew she was one ball away from feeling good again and that happened with the Meg Lanning wicket,” Shreyanka’s coach Arjun Dev tells Sportstar.

“It was the ball before the wicket. It was a bad ball and went for four but how the ball came out of her hand felt good for her. She came back the next ball and things worked out after that.”

Incidentally, in the final, Shreyanka dismissed Lanning once more, a wicket that turned the face of the game.

No pain, no gain

Shreyanka came into that league game having missed two matches due to a hand injury. The break was a blessing in disguise, not just in helping her get some time off but also in working on what was going wrong with her technique. Stir crazy Shreyanka did not enjoy life on the sidelines.

“The first day I didn’t play, I went to everyone and asked, “What am I supposed to do? How do I react? What should I do?” I am just standing there and doing nothing. It was a really bad feeling. Everyone made sure I was just sitting in a corner, because I am naughty and can get up to some monkey business. Even when I was jumping around in the middle of a match, one of them would sternly tell me to sit. Everything teaches you something and that’s how I see it,” she said.

That Lanning dismissal and her bowling performance as a whole flipped a switch for the youngster but Dev believes that it isn’t so much the person she dismissed as it was about her own sense of her technique that turned Shreyanka’s season for her.

“When the small things go your way, it feels good. We focus on how it’s coming out of the hands,” Dev explains. “If she’s giving it enough revs, if she’s actually overspinning the ball - these are small technical things that we focus on. She knows these things, how to look for them and correct them. She understands her bowling enough to do most of it herself. It doesn’t even have to mean bowling to someone 22 yards away, it could just be spinning the ball to someone 10 yards away. Just watching the seam out of her hands and making her feel like she’s in a better space,” he adds.

Lanning’s wicket was the first of four she would go on to take, conceding 26 runs in her four overs. From an economy rate in excess of 10 in the first part of the tournament, Shreyanka reigned things in to finish with the best economy rate among RCB’s bowlers in this game (6.5).

However, she was left in tears as RCB fell short by one solitary run, with teammates and opponents alike rushing to console her for a remarkable fight, irrespective of the result.

Delhi Capitals player Alice Capsey consoles RCB’s Shreyanka Patil.
Delhi Capitals player Alice Capsey consoles RCB’s Shreyanka Patil. | Photo Credit: PTI

Delhi Capitals player Alice Capsey consoles RCB’s Shreyanka Patil. | Photo Credit: PTI

In the Eliminator, much like the league game before that against the same opponent - Mumbai, Shreyanka was fielded in the death, partnering Sophie Molineux and Asha Sobhana in keeping things tight and eventually helping RCB make the summit clash.

She also took the key wickets of Hayley Matthews and Harmanpreet Kaur when RCB was defending a sub-par 135 against an imposing MI batting lineup. Harmanpreet’s wicket turned the game on its head with MI bottling what was otherwise a comfortable chase in the last 12 balls.

“When you see things like that, you know that when there are crunch moments, these characters will stand up and deliver. Shreyanka is a warrior. Playing with a niggle, nobody will think she has an injury. These are characters we are very proud to have in RCB and we’re excited to see what she will go on to do for the club and the country,” Rangarajan said after the game.

Shreyanka foxing Harmanpreet was no fluke. She was happy to risk the MI captain switching into her trigger-happy mode if it meant she could draw out an error. With MI needing 20 runs from the last 18 balls, Shreyanka tossed the ball up just outside off-stump. She tried to go for it, but Richa Ghosh couldn’t complete the stumping.

Shreyanka kept her calm and sent the next one angling into the stumps, a little quicker this time. She stuck to her stump lines with Amelia Kerr and Harmanpreet for the next few deliveries. And then came the reward, off the last ball of her spell. She tempted Harmanpreet once more with a juicy carrot outside off and the skipper swung her bat holing out to Sophie Devine in the deep.

Rangarajan identifies her level of preparation as something that stood out even when RCB was scouting Shreyanka.

“When we saw her playing for Karnataka, she was a 19-year-old playing for the senior team, bowling the tough overs. It wasn’t like she was just participating, she was delivering the yorkers under pressure. Along with her coach Arjun (Dev), she does center-wicket practice and simulation, and there’s nothing left to chance. The way she was practising was different from our peers, and was slightly ahead of them,” he said.

Also read | Bound by brilliance, Smriti Mandhana and Meg Lanning eye maiden title in epic showdown

Character development in CPL

The significance of this Harmanpreet wicket and how it came about reminds Dev of how the duo plotted Matthews’ wicket when Shreyanka turned out for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) last year.

She beat Matthews with a quicker ball which went too full and clipped her off stump. It made the world sit up and notice the only Indian in the CPL.

That tournament was transformative for Shreyanka in more ways than one.

“She was a complete newbie last year, playing in front of 30,000 people at the Brabourne and DY Patil Stadiums and holding her own. She showed she belonged to this stage. She then got her India break before which she featured in the Caribbean Premier League. CPL was a great experience for her in terms of growing up… just being the overseas player and having the responsibility helped her grow up a little bit. She’s always been looked after like a baby so this helped in maturing a bit in terms of the way she thinks about the game,” Dev says.

He credits Stafanie Taylor, Shreyanka’s captain at the franchise, for much of it.

“Before heading to the CPL, Shreyanka had played domestic cricket and a season of the WPL. So, she went from a very control-oriented domestic set-up to a different environment. You practice, you play and then you’re on your own. As an overseas player, that added responsibility was there on her. She wasn’t someone who could just come in and bowl the easy overs and get done with it. She needed to bowl the tough overs, when pressure built, the captain would turn to her. Stafanie Taylor was her captain there and after the first game, she told her to set her own fields and do as she deemed fit. That was completely new for her and it was a freedom she craved for a long time. We believe in planning and she had her plans and when Taylor gave her that freedom, she really took off. Stafanie told her to do her thing, saying she would step in if it doesn’t work. That was really nice for her,” he adds.

Control is an element Dev is trying to work on with Shreyanka, not in the way you’d think though. While control is great for a bowler in terms of mastery over their skills, it might not be the best way to make leaders of those who show promise.

“In domestic cricket, I don’t think youngsters or even senior players are allowed to be leaders. There’s a lot of control and everyone feels discipline is important and rules are key. In that environment, I don’t feel you’re going to have leaders growing. You’re just going to have followers,” he points out.

Ripple effect

Following might not always be a bad thing though. Shreyanka, as Dev puts it, is a true-blue Bangalore girl. She loves the big stage and loves the attention and has the wares to put on a show with bat and ball. However, she serves a larger purpose in being a bridge between the level of cricket at tournaments like the WPL and CPL and the domestic ecosystem.

Dev points out how rubbing shoulders with the likes of Perry could go a long way in rounding out Shreyanka as an individual in a cut-throat sport like cricket.

“There was a moment in the Eliminator where Perry dove by the boundary trying to stop a ball. She couldn’t and it went for four. She could have, per her own lofty standards. Anyone else would have hit the ground or said, ‘Damn’, but not Perry. She picked up the ball and ran to her next fielding position. Those things go a long way. Your body language is picked up by these kids. Hopefully that passes on from Shreyanka to the domestic cricket circles she moves around in. That’s the purpose. For cricket to get strong, all of this needs to pass on to the domestic scene,” he says.

Dev was in the crowd, watching his student turn up for her club, helping the side to a maiden franchise title, something the side’s men’s vertical has not managed in 16 years. Once all the fanfare died down, Shreyanka is just happy to repay the faith her ‘sister’ Smriti had on her from the very start. 

“I wanted to be the go-to bowler for Smriti. I wanted everyone to believe in me and trust that I could bowl the tough overs well this year. It’s something I worked on consciously, bettering myself in the PowerPlay and middle overs. Smriti trusted me and that made all the difference in winning this title,” Shreyanka concluded.

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