Ace India opener Smriti Mandhana is on the threshold of becoming the first Indian to play in the Kia Super League, England’s premier women's domestic T20 tournament, and the 21-year-old hopes that a stint in the league will help her to prepare well for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20, that is scheduled to take place in December.
Mandhana will be a part of Gloucestershire-based Western Storm, that has players like England captain Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole in their ranks.
In an interview with Firtspost, Mandhana said, “After the England series (in April) we got a window of one month, so that was like an early off season”, she said. “The KSL is a good way to play matches, because getting quality matches ahead of the World Cup is really important for me as a player to perform well for India.”
Mandhana sees it as an opportunity to improve her skills in swinging conditions that will hold her in good stead for the showpiece event later in the year. Having already played a Test and ODIs in England, it will be a new challenge for her to adapt to the shortest format of the game.
“I’ll have to start practicing all the boundary shots and other shots in swinging conditions. In ODIs you take your time and then go for the shots. In T20s you don’t have that, you have to go after it from ball one. To do that in swinging conditions is something I'll be working on.”
“I'll have to add preparation for lofting balls that are swinging,” she added.
The southpaw has already played in Women’s Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat, but did not have the best returns for team. In the 12 games she played, Madhana could only manage to score 89 runs in the 2017 season. Her campaign there ended prematurely due to a knee injury. This is something she would like to change come the KSL. Also, India’s vice-captain in T20s wants to learn to take responsibility and live up to the expectations.
“That time I was just 18,” said Mandhana. “But now after 2-3 years I would be better prepared. Staying alone, doing the preparation all alone, that would be a bit easier.”
“As an overseas player, they will expect me to do well. So to learn to handle the expectations, that will help me in the World Cup (T20), because people expect a lot from me in the World Cup," said Mandhana who was recently awarded BCCI's Women's Cricketer of the year Award for the 2017-18 season.
If Mandhana manages to perform well, it could open the gates of these foreign leagues for other Indian players too.
“If they win games for India, all possibilities open up," she said. Strangely, all three Indians who have played in foreign leagues so far are batswomen. No league has picked up one of India's spin talents, yet.
Mandhana also brought to light how KSL happened to her. It was Storm coach Trevor Griffin, who had reached out to the talented player right after the T20 series involving England and Australia in March. After the series Griffin was asked to send a formal request to the BCCI.
“Once BCCI checked that it's not clashing with international commitments, they spoke with the team management, who felt it would be a good opportunity for me” Mandhana told Firstpost.
“By the end of the England series, the BCCI got back to me with the NOC. Then I started communication with the Storm manager.”
Mandhana became a household name during India's run to the final of the ICC Women's World Cup in 2017. She shot to limelight with knocks of 90 and 106* in India's opening two matches in the tournament.