Smriti Mandhana led India Blue side secured a 33-run victory over India Green in the all-important Challenger Trophy final on Monday (January 8). Following India Blue’s win, Mandhana’s bold decision to bat first on a used pitch became the talk of town.
After being set a target of 208, India Green were placed at 157 for 4 after 37 overs with Punam Raut and Jemimah Rodrigues putting an opening stand of 114. However, the leg-spin of C Prathyusha proved to be the nightmare for Green team’s middle order batswomen as she took 4 for 23 to restrict the opposition on 174 for 10 in 45.2 overs.
After the match, Mandhana admitted that she had run out of ideas when Raut and Rodrigues were cruising with the chase.
“The plan against Jemimah and Punam was to block their singles, as they are good at dropping and running, and rotating the strike. When the ball was in their zone, they also hit the shots. Like in our previous game against them, the duo batted well again today. At one point of time, we really did not expect to win the match,” Mandhana said while speaking to Wisden India.
“I tried all my bowlers and all my field settings I know of. I was telling my bowlers to just create dot-ball pressure. I knew then they would go for their shots and that would lead to wickets,” she further added.
Talking about her captaincy which played an instrumental role in India’s Blue’s triumph as she managed her sources wonderfully well besides setting the field for her bowlers, Mandhana said: “Except for Jhulan (Goswami) di (and Gayakwad) most of the bowlers were playing the Challenger for the first time. So, the idea was to keep it simple and give the bowlers the field they wanted.”
“Depending on the line the bowler wants to bowl, I try to set fields. We had spoken before this match of what kind of field we would try,” she further elaborated.
Mandhana, who became the household name after her stellar show in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, started the Challenger Trophy with an unbeaten century against India Red and scored a precious 58 in the final while opening the innings.
The 21-year-old will now captain Maharashtra in the inter-state Twenty20 competition, starting on January 12. Subsequently, the Indian Women’s team will fly to South Africa to play three ODIs and five T20Is.
Talking about the forthcoming South Africa tour and her current batting form, Mandhana said: “I am really looking forward (to the South Africa tour). Batting is looking in good touch, and hope it remains the same.”
“After the World Cup, I have made some technical changes, and have played a lot against wet tennis balls and plastic balls to counter the bounce in South Africa. We won’t get time now as we have the T20 competition and then the camp. How much time was there (in the off season), I ensured that I prepared both for South African and Indian pitches because we also have the domestic season,” concluded Smriti Mandhana.