'It's more about application' – Mandhana vows to be consistent after tough Bangladesh tour

'It's more about application' - Mandhana vows to be consistent after tough Bangladesh tour

The Bangladeshi women have seen an Indian superstar batting lineup struggle on some challenging surfaces designed to suit their spinners in the

tour in progress

Among those who have found it difficult to score runs is India vice-captain Smriti Mandhana. A free-flowing hitmaker, Mandhana hasn’t hit top speed so far on tour. The 36 off 58 ball he made in the second ODI helped break a sequence of 11, 1 and 13.

Bangladesh have done their homework by not giving the opener much pace to work up front. That was reflected in the way he was fired: out to spin in four of the five innings. It is unlikely that Bangladesh will want to change that ploy on Saturday when the two sides meet in the ODI final.

Mandhana admitted that he has not been able to apply himself as he would have liked. But she revealed that she was trying her best to destroy that irregular shape.

“I think I’ve been hitting well in the nets, I’ve also started in matches,” Mandhana said. “It doesn’t happen many times that I’m in the middle of the ball but not getting runs for the team. I’ve been working on that.”

“In the last match, I was pretty positive in the way I was able to get the team off to a decent start, but I threw my wicket. It’s more about application. Batting-wise, it’s going well, but it’s just that my application hasn’t been the way I’ve always applied myself. That’s something I’ve been working on.”

Mandhana, like the rest of the Indian team, has not played much cricket in recent months. After the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) in March, the team had two months off. While a specific squad of players had a month-long conditioning camp, the older players were called up for just two weeks.

Mandhana had a lackluster career in the WPL, a tournament in which he made several impressive starts, but failed to get off the ground. Finally, Royal Challengers Bangalore, the team she managed, finished fifth in the six-team event, with Mandhana finishing with 149 runs from eight games at a strike rate of 111.19, which is well below her T20I strike rate of 123.49.

“After the WPL, we didn’t have many tournaments. I’ve worked a lot in the last three months, both in terms of cricket and batting. I haven’t been able to convert into big scores, but the kind of work I’ve put in, it will be reflected soon and I’ll get consistent scores.”

“These wickets need a lot more application than a flat track. I won’t say it suits our style of batting, but it’s how we adapt.”

Smriti Mandhana

Mandhana chuckled when asked if these grounds suited his team’s style of play. All games were played at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur in two-pace covers, where the ball spun, came to rest on the batsmen, and even stayed low on occasions. It was apparent that most Indian batsmen have had to deviate drastically from their natural games when playing on this surface.

“These have definitely been challenging grounds to play on, I don’t know if they suit what style of hitting,” Mandhana said with a laugh. “I won’t really emphasize the wicket too much. The way we applied ourselves in the last match and got over 200 [was very good]. These wickets need a lot more application than a flat track. I won’t say it suits our hitting style, but it’s about how we adapt. As cricketers, we have to do that every time you play.”

Amid the spinning choke, Bangladesh has seen the young Marufa Akter emerge. Her fierce spell in the first ODI worried the visitors in a 153 chase and her career best four helped clinch Bangladesh’s first ODI win over India. Mandhana was effusive in her praise for the 18-year-old.

“I think it has a very different action,” Mandhana assessed. “From her action, she is much faster than we think she is. Her ball definitely skids more than we expect from its point of release. She is a very good cricketer. I had a little chat with her after the match, congratulating her on her efforts. She has inspired us all too.”

“No matter what her age, the effort she’s putting into the girls is amazing to see. [With] the type of fire she has, she will be an amazing cricketer for Bangladesh. With her bowling, she’s maybe 2 mph faster than you’d think. These wickets are definitely not helping her that much, I have to see what she does in England and Australia.”

Mandhana also praised Bangladesh for making the series much more competitive than many thought it would be. “We played them in the Asian Cup in Sylhet last year, from then until now, the way they have grown, especially as a bowling team,” she said. “I feel like his fielding efforts have been amazing. Definitely on these grounds his bowling attack is very good, but like I said, for us it’s all about preparing ourselves to be better bowlers.”