Nemesis Australia await India in their Commonwealth Games opener but senior batter Smriti Mandhana is in no mood to lose sleep over that and make their rivals “feel good about it”. Days before women’s cricket makes its debut at the multi-sport event, Mandhana refused to call the five-time T20 world champions a big team. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side will open its campaign against Australia on July 29, and Mandhana said they have their plans in place for each opposition.
“We have played them (Australia) in the openers in quite a lot of tournaments.
“In a T20 tournament, any team can beat any team. I wouldn’t term Australia as a big team and make them feel good about that. Definitely in our heads, Australia, Pakistan and Barbados matches are important. We will go as they come and will look to win all of them,” Mandhana said.
For the record, India lost to Australia in their last T20 World Cup game earlier this year.
India, though, will enter the Birmingham CWG after winning the T20I and ODI series in Sri Lanka recently, and Smriti said, “Our preparations have been really good and I hope it will lead us to the medal.”
“Aiming for gold, not just podium”
Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s gold medal winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics last year gave her goosebumps, and Mandhana and her teammates will look to take inspiration from that when they compete in their first multi-sport event.
As the sport marks its return to the Commonwealth Games for the first time since Kuala Lumpur 1998 in the form of women’s T20 cricket, the star India opener said they would strive to win no less than a gold medal.
“We all have watched the Olympics and the CWG, when the Indian flag goes high and we hear the National Anthem, we know the kind of feeling it evokes,” the left-hander said during a virtual media interaction on the eve of the team’s departure for UK.
“Definitely we are aiming for the gold. I don’t think we will just look for a podium finish because when the flag goes higher, and the National Anthem is played, that’s the best feeling you have.
“I literally got goosebumps when Neeraj got the gold at the Tokyo Olympics. We have an opportunity to be there, try and do that — of course not for the Olympics but for CWG. So, we all are really excited.” On taking part in the CWG, she further said: “It’s something very new for me and also the whole team, we never experienced a multi-sport event.
“Definitely looking forward to it and catching up with a few athletes at the Games Village and interacting about their training regimen. It would be a good experience for us.” Eight teams will vie for the top honours across 16 matches at Edgbaston and India are grouped with Australia, Pakistan and Barbados.
Group B will feature England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The two teams will make the semi-finals and all the medal rounds will be decided on August 7.
“We are looking to win every match. Not one match and then think of what will happen. We have our plans ready for the three teams. We will try to win all the three matches,” the 26-year-old said.
“We’ve a lot of match-winners now”
The best thing to have happened to the Indian women’s team in the recent past is the development of a lot of match winners.
“Luckily we have developed a lot of match-winners in T20 cricket. So even if 2-3 batters or bowlers click on that day, it would be our day.
“That’s one good thing that has happened over the years. We now have a lot of match winners in our team.” She further said that the team boasts of multiple wicketkeeper-batters with Yastika Bhatia as the first-choice stumper and Taniya Bhatiya as back-up.
“We have 2-3 people who can keep and bat, that’s something we really wanted. I think we are heading towards a good direction as far as comp for the spots in the team is concerned,” she signed off.
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