Harmanpreet Kaur says he doesn't remember much from his 51st match won in the Women & # 39; s T20 Challenge final two weeks ago, except "what a fun dance party we had after the game!" "We are" his Supernovas teammates: a mix of hooded and hoodless Indian players and England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka internationals, some of whom are also his teammates and rivals in the WBBL and in the Kia Super League. Two months after completing a decade in international cricket and turning 30, the captain of the India T20I opens up his mental struggles and talks about what the team needs to win the T20 World Cup in Australia in February – March next year.
You had 87 consecutive ODI appearances before losing an international series (against England in February-March) for the first time since the start of 2010.
I twisted my left foot while playing soccer during a warm-up for the first T20I in New Zealand (beginning of February). Somehow I managed to play all three T20I despite being in some discomfort, because calling a replacement on such short notice might not have been possible. Also, throughout my career, I played with fevers, shoulders, ankles and wrist injuries, so I didn't feel this would be anything significant. Taping and painkillers worked well in the warm-ups, so I thought I could do it. But during the games, my movement was badly hit. Scans later revealed that there were some level 1 and 2 tears on the back of the ankle. I was at the National Cricket Academy (in Bengaluru) from February 22nd to April 9th, and that pause was a blessing in disguise for me.
Because it gave me a much needed break from international cricket and the Indian locker room. I had almost decided to let my parents know that I wanted to take a break. I don't want to keep a place on the Indian team just because I'm an old player. I wanted to get away from cricket. Whatever happened on the team before, for me it was immensely dripping. Some of the things said were so far from the reality that I felt, "I have to get away from this madness for a while." I'm here to play cricket. If people want to drag me into useless things, drag the team into useless things, I have to stop trying to reason with them.
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Are you referring to the controversy the day after the semi-final exit of the India World T20?
Listen, I had to play in the WBBL after the World T20, and for a while, after arriving from the West Indies, I was also considering playing only in the overseas championships and then returning to the Indian team. I spent hours alone, wondering, "Why do I play sports?" "Because I like it, because playing cricket is the only thing I've ever done in life." Agar khelke mazaa nahi aa raha hai (If I'm not enjoying the game), then I don't want to block a place in the side, because money isn't everything. Yes, we've just started earning money playing cricket, but if cricket isn't giving me joy, I'm happy to leave, rather than hold on to that point just because I have a grade A contract. So all these thoughts bothered me a lot . Mentally I was not well, not suitable, but that injury saved me from that terrible mental space.
Why has this whole thing influenced you so much?
There have been several times since 2016 when I was asked by the support staff to go up to the people and apologize, just to keep the fitting room environment in place. And I did, without getting an answer on what I'm saying sorry for. But, no, it's like, "Harry, try to solve it for the good of the team." But kitni baar sorry boloon (How many times should I apologize)? meri insult hoti hai, only upar meeting hoti hai, aur ulta sorry bhi bolna hai toh woh mujhe bolna hai (Am I the one being insulted and even then I should be apologizing)? It's not funny? But I was kind, "If the team's environment will improve because of my displeasure, I will." And I did it. Ask the people I apologized to and they will tell you if I have or not.
But this time I thought "No, I've had enough". These false accusations are too senseless for me to lose sleep. If certain situations are not meant to improve, it is not possible to correct them, no matter how many excuses you offer. The wisest thing to do is get away from all that mess and calm down, focus on your mental health, your cricket, come back strong and do what you love and what gave you money, recognition, etc.
How did you change person and captain from the World T20 last year?
Before the World T20, the things that would have happened on the field or off the pitch influenced me a lot, because when I'm on something, I give it my best. And when I saw that I was giving my 100% to the team, but someone else wasn't, it really upset me, because in a team sport you can't put your interests ahead of those of the team. But the two-month break gave me a perspective. I realized that you have to ignore these things because no matter how much you try or the team you're looking for, you can't make everyone happy.
What was the environment of the dressing room, as if you were going on a New Zealand tour under a new head coach?
I knew that if I kept focusing on external noise, which unfortunately is still happening, it wouldn't have helped me or most of the other girls. (WV) Raman sir (the new coach) played an important role in diverting attention from noise. He held three to four meetings with all the team members and reminded us that we are here for cricket and for any personal problems someone has with someone, it is better that they keep him out of the locker room and out of the ground.
Smriti (Mandhana, vice-captain of the T20I) and I discussed how to take the team forward.
What has Raman had been like head coach so far?
I think he is very good at hearing a player's pulse and getting the job without too many problems. His suggestions in the networks helped me. Sometimes, my movements and the bat's beating are so exaggerated that he says: "If it were possible, tujhe principal Male IPL ke liye bhej deta (I would have sent you to play in the IPL). But you are playing against women, and you have to respect the pace at which they are playing. You need to slow down your attack shots, sometimes, stay calm, concentrate on the times, and the ball will travel on its own because the power is in there. "
As a batter, I often think, "I'm hitting so hard, yet it won't go to a border." So when someone with experience like him clears your doubts, it helps. And I think I beat the (Women & # 39; s T20 Challenge) final because of the clarity he gave me.
Jemi (Jemimah Rodrigues) was flipping through his shots a few days ago and his movements were a bit hasty, so Sir jokingly said: "Is the Maharashtra government going to give a prize for a strike of over 200? play with a 140-150 strike rate and make your joke effective, right? "I think he also helped Jemi.
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Do you think India still needs a bowling coach? They advertised the location in April last year but have not yet received one.
Yes, a spin-bowling coach in particular can help our team because our strength is the spin. We requested one for a while now, so we hope to have one soon. In a format like the T20, hitters still have the chance to go to the end of the non-attacker and calm down, but bowlers have to throw six balls back to back under tremendous pressure. They need the experience of someone who could have handled that pressure at that level.
What about a mental conditioning coach? Former coach Ramesh Powar mentioned the need for one in his review of the World T20 tournament.
Our teams definitely need them. Sometimes, we – including myself – fail to understand what our strengths and weaknesses are. It happened at different points in my career where I needed a perspective on my game, on my personality, but no one has ever been in the clothing for me to open.
Ten years of international cricket and I would say that I have ten years of unspeakable inner conflict bottled up in me because I haven't been able to share it with anyone. And let me clarify: it is not a question of trusting one's teammates or coach or bowling coach. It's about getting that privacy when you share with someone whose job it is to guide you in those moments, to help you solve your problem without judging yourself. I don't think it's possible for teammates to offer you that kind of support all the time. And not all girls' families understand the needs and requirements of cricket, nor do they travel with you. So you need someone in the support staff who understands the sport and mental struggles of the players who play in the sport of the elite.
Did things go differently in Lancashire Thunder in KSL or Sydney Thunder in WBBL?
Our Sydney Thunder sports psychologist keeps telling us: "Don't think about the pink elephant". What is the pink elephant? In a sense, it is a suggestion to remind ourselves that we should never tell ourselves what not to think and focus instead on what we need and want to do. I shared with him more of my struggles than anyone else in the dressing rooms.
Speaking of T20 national championships, what will be the biggest impact of the 2019 Women's T20 Challenge, let's say, in five years?
There have been many worries around during the accumulation: Sign in dekhenge bhi ya nahi? fiasco toh nahi jo jayega na? (People will watch it? It won't be a flop, right?) Regardless of the T20 national championships I've played so far (in the UK and Australia), I've never seen a crowd as big as the one we saw in Jaipur. It didn't look like we were playing a domestic game.
This tournament has helped, and hopefully an expanded version over the next few years, to bridge the gap between our national cricketers and international cricketers. When some of these girls – like Shafali (Verma), Radha (Yadav), Harleen (Deol) – enter the national team or play in a World Cup, they will feel less nervous than some of the girls during the series (T20I) in Guwahati (against England, which India lost 0-3).
What did you do with Shafali Verma, in particular?
It is too early to say, but we have seen that he is able to get his fill of energy (in his shots), and his fearless approach is what we are looking for in an opener. Shafali is very young, but we have time to govern her. If it responds well to the challenges we are about to launch, it could be an opening partner for Smriti. You have to play without fear – which doesn't mean carelessly – in Powerplay, and Shafali seems to have that kind of natural fearlessness in her.
Which of your teammates in India do you think could come to WBBL and / or KSL this year?
There are some. Jemi, PY (Poonam Yadav, the pedestal) did well against many oppositions. Deepti Sharma is also a great all-rounder, as is Radha Yadav (the radical left-handed handyman). Radha is a great fielder, something that is always a bonus for each side, and the kind of confidence he showed in the final (Women & # 39; s T20 Challenge) is proof that she has the potential to hold her nerve and finish games for her.
Fielding has been a problem for India for some time, and we've seen some of the international bosses of India at Women & # 39; s T20 Challenge. How do you see that the team smoothes out this turn before the T20 World Cup?
Night games are definitely more difficult to play than day games. We don't play many night games, so you can't expect the catch to be error-free in these games. For the whole year we train during the day for daytime games and then at the world tournament kos we play under the lights, in conditions we are not used to. How do we fix it? Playing tournaments like these and playing international series under the lights.
We are a relatively weak team compared to some of the best teams, so this could affect our chances (at the T20 World Cup) but we still have a year to go and this next fitness field (at the NCA) will be important. We don't get many fitness camps, so we have to take it very seriously.
In addition to fielding, what are the other aspects that India needs to keep in mind to enter the formidable contenders for the T20 World Cup?
The first thing we need to check is not to put too much pressure ki jeetna hai, jeetna hai (which we must win). If we get a good opening partner for Smriti, someone who can support her well, even if her strike rate is not as high as Smriti's, then ours can be an alignment to struggle with. We are looking for someone in the T20I side who can beat me after me, absorb the pressure in the last 12-15 balls. This is one of the concerns we are facing right now. We tried (Bharati) Fulmali (in the Guwahati series) as a potential substitute for Pooja (Vastrakar), who is still recovering from his injury. We tried Harleen (Deol) as a forerunner. That T20I series told us which young people need to work more than others.
What are your views on the form of Mandhana in the last year?
If I saw two cricketers in my career improve rapidly and massively, it would be Smriti and Jemi. The young Smriti used to fight against success, so we used to play it a lot. He didn't have the sweep before, but look how he picked up the skills to overcome those shortcomings.
Moreover, at the beginning of his international career, he barely had confidence in his six strokes. The first six that struck, I remember, was so happy about it. I told her, "I really have no idea why you think you have trouble hitting because you can clear the strings if you feel like it, because of your times." Unlike men's cricket, where the boundaries are further away, most of the six shots in women's cricket depend on timing. Smriti has always been among the best timers of the ball. After that six, jo uska dimaag ka to block Khula (the way his mental block has disappeared) (laughs), it's amazing to see this version of Smriti.
When Jemi came to the side, I was very impressed with how technically healthy she was. But I was worried about its lean structure. She too is not among the tallest people. So I was like, "Will he be able to face a bouncer?" She was a little scared by the bouncer. When she asked me how to do it, the only thing I felt I had to say was that she should make herself mentally and physically so strong that the fear of bouncers disappears. It adapted very well afterwards.
Do you still recommend them?
Now they advise me (laughs). It's a great thing, isn't it? They tell me, Harry of, try this and try that; this was good, not so much. When you learn something every day from gifted players like these, you feel good. If they are younger or older than you, it doesn't matter.
Mandhana made her debut under you and led the India in your absence three months ago. Where do you see it in the next five years?
Much of Indian cricket will rest on Smriti's shoulders. The way she peaked, she should try to continue. C & # 39; t is much more than it can get. If he continues to play this way, I think we can win a great title soon.
What is your five-year plan for yourself?
The thought of "I turned 30" does not occur to me. I wasn't fit, self-confident and confident when I was 25 like I am now.
My goal is largely about my fitness and my diet now. Even my awareness of my diet – meal times, quantity, water intake – has improved. It's an important aspect of my daily routine because I have a lot of mood swings around food and I can't survive without Punjabi food.
When I met my dietician for the first time two or three months ago, I was hoping koi mere parathein na chudwaade (I hope they don't let me give up the parathas!) (laughs ). But the dietician has denied the myth that the parathas make you fat. They do not, as long as you are able to organize your meals well. Fortunately, the parathas are still there on my diet, along with rice, dal, vegetables, dairy products and salad on game days. It's mostly a vegetarian diet for me now.
What is the main element on your wish list in your five-year plan?
Once we win a World Cup, we will not look back. We will continue to win some on the trot. It's like that block I was talking about regarding Smriti's six years and the fear of Jemi's bouncers.
I am lucky that I am 30 years old and in the next five years we will play two 20-over and two ODI World Cups, and if women's cricket is included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, we could also win a medal. So, with the grace of God, we play well and win the first one in Australia (where the next T20 World Cup will be played).
. (tagsToTranslate) India Women (t) Harmanpreet Bhullar (t) Smriti Mandhana (t) Jemimah Rodrigues (t) India Women (t) Cricket