Hope we can take women’s cricket to a higher level this year, says Smriti

Cricketer Smriti Mandhana during interview in Mumbai.

Cricketer Smriti Mandhana during interview in Mumbai.
| Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

India’s women cricketers fell just a step short of winning their maiden T20 World Cup title in 2020. Ahead of the next edition, Smriti Mandhana, the vice-captain, isn’t putting too much pressure on herself — and her teammates – in order to bring back the trophy from South Africa in February.

“I am not a person who is huge on setting targets. I am not someone who says I’ll do this and do that. Let’s hope we can take women’s cricket to a higher level this year,” Smriti told  The Hindu while responding to a query on her targets for 2023. “We shall try and do whatever we can to achieve it. Hopefully towards the end of the year, we will have a few trophies and inspire a lot of other girls to play cricket.”

Smriti, the stylish opener, is coming off yet another magnificent year in international cricket, tallying almost 1,200 runs combined in ODIs and T20Is. While she was delighted “with my effort and especially with the Commonwealth Games medal”, she played down the hype surrounding the Women’s Indian Premier League.

Smriti was speaking on the sidelines of an event to announce her association with Herbalife Nutrition. She stressed that the awareness about nutritional aspect has been on the rise in women’s cricket.

“In the last four-five years, it’s grown a lot. Earlier cricket was termed as a skill-sport a lot but now with the increased number of games and hectic schedule we have, nutrition has become a vital aspect for fitness,” she said.

“It’ll be one of the most important aspects going forward. Even for me, post my ACL (injury rehab in 2017), I am more aware about my nutrition — how much protein intake I should have and hydration levels, understanding my body better and plan accordingly, besides gym and physical conditioning. If we have to compete at the highest level be the top team in the world, we have to look after ourselves and nutrition is one of the most important parts of it.”

‘Women’s IPL will help us see higher-pressure situations’

Smriti Mandhana believes that Women’s IPL will create bench strength for India and help the girls see higher pressure situations. The inaugural Women’s IPL season is anticipated to start from March 3 to 26.

“Women’s IPL is going to be a great tournament in terms of bench strength. What happened to women’s cricket is that a bench strength was created in the same way. Just like Women’s Big Bash and Women’s 100 did for Australia and England respectively in the same way Women’s IPL will help us see higher pressure situations. So, they will be ready when they will play international cricket,” said India vice-captain Smriti Mandhana while speaking to ANI.

Women’s Indian Premier League (WIPL) is set to start as a five-team tournament next year immediately after the conclusion of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup on February 26.

The Women’s T20 Challenge, which began as a two-team one-off game in 2018 before expanding to a three-team exhibition tournament in 2019 and two further editions in 2020 and 2022, will be replaced by this competition.

Though BCCI has not finalised the schedule of the WIPL, it will end before the men’s IPL. The men’s IPL is likely to start in March. It is also likely that WIPL clashes with the first-ever season of the Women’s Pakistan Super League.

Women’s cricket has started getting popularity in India ever since the women’s team reached the finals of the 2017 ODI World Cup, where they lost to England. In 2018, BCCI launched the Women’s T20 Challenge, which was initially a one-match event. But over the years, it was extended to three teams.

The growth on the domestic front in women’s cricket has been massive, during the eight-year period between 2014-2022. A further breakdown also listed numbers increasing to 129 per cent in the senior women’s category and 92 per cent in the under-19 category.

WIPL will join The Hundred, Caribbean Premier League, and Women’s Big Bash League as T20 leagues that have increased the global popularity of women’s cricket.

(with inputs from ANI)

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