Over the last 12 months or so her stature has grown such that she has emerged as an inspiration to a plethora of emerging cricketers across the nation. The right-arm off-spinner became the first player to represent India in the Women’s Caribbean Premier League (WCPL) when she was signed on by the Guyana Amazon Warriors and then clinched the title of highest wicket-taker in the second edition of the recently concluded WCPL. She took nine wickets in five matches. Her team journey though ended in heartbreak following an 8-run defeat to Barbados Royals in the final.
From playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) to making an impression for India A in the Emerging Women’s Asia Cup to dismissing batters like Hayley Matthews, Rashada Williams and Mignon du Preez on Caribbean soil, the Bangalore-born cricketer is going from strength to strength.
Destined to make her debut for India sooner rather than later, Shreyanka Patil talked to TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive chat about her first experience in a foreign land, future aspirations, her admiration for Virat Kohli, and much more.
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Congratulations on becoming the highest wicket-taker in the Caribbean Premier League. How does it feel to achieve such a significant milestone at such a young age?
It’s a great feeling for me to be a part of the WCPL. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s a great feeling to just go there, express my feelings and get to know people who’re coming from all over the world. It was a great experience overall.
Can you share your experiences leading up to the tournament?
Once I got to know that I was picked for this WCPL, I was very happy. I knew that I had done all the hard work to get to that level. So I was fully prepared, and I was looking forward to playing matches with legends like Hayley Matthews. For me, that was a special platform because playing against Hayley Matthews, Deandra Dottin, and Laura Harris got me excited.
When I went there and got to know my teammates, it was very nice. That’s how the journey started. And then the players there were really welcoming, and it wasn’t hard. For me to say, – ‘Oh my God, I’m the only Indian. how do I gel with other players?’ It was very easy, they were very welcoming. And then, I knew that I’d gone there for a reason because I’m representing India. So I knew that I should do my things there, just keep everything simple because my plans were clear. So, I just talked to them. In the first match only, I just went off my plans. But other than that, I think I executed my plans well, so that’s kind of like me on the stage.
Since you are the first Indian player to play in the Women’s CPL, what was your mindset and strategy going into the tournament, and how did you adapt to different conditions there?
It wasn’t that hard for me because I’ve always prepared my mind in such a way that no matter what match I’m playing, I have to win the match for my team. So there was no second doubt for me to say that I have to train my mind completely differently because I’m playing at a different level. It was still the same – to just win the game for my team. So that was my mental status. and then, it just followed up like that, because I’ve been doing certain things, my routine. I’ve just stuck to them. So, that’s helped me.
When you speak about the conditions, it was helping the spinners. I was getting some turn. So a little turn; I will any day take the turn. So for me, once I see that kind of pitch, I would be very happy to see because I love to bowl on turning wickets. I am a different bowler when I bowl on a turning track. So I really enjoyed that surface. Although it was challenging, I really enjoyed it.
While playing in franchise cricket, do you see money as a psychological barrier? Does it give you that physiological pressure that you have been paid well, so you have to perform well?
I don’t think that plays a major role. For me, it’s just to showcase my skills on any given platform, just to make sure that I make an impact wherever I play. So for me, that’s never a thing running in my head.
Bowling in T20 cricket can be quite challenging, especially for spinners against big hitters, especially from the Caribbean. Can you share your favourite wicket-taking deliveries or moments from the tournament?
Of course, it is Hayley Matthews’s wicket because she’s one of my favourite cricketers. To get her out the way I wanted was a special moment. So, that’s the highlight of the WCPL for me.
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What aspects of your game have you been working on to continually improve your performance as a bowler in the T20 format?
I’ve always been working on all three aspects of the game, be it power-play, middle overs or the death. But this year, what has really helped me is the power-play bowling. I really put in those extra efforts to come and deliver what is required, depending on the match situation. So that is a plus point.
I’ve been doing well in the death and the middle overs. So It was something challenging for me to do something extraordinary in the power play, because being an off-spinner, it’s not easy to bowl in the power play. So that’s something which I have improved of late. I had that in my bag, but then I just had to execute so now, I think I’m ready to bowl in all three phases of the game.
You bowl a lot of flighted deliveries. Is that always pre-planned or does that depend entirely on the conditions and the opponent?
It depends on the situation and the conditions. I read the batter. So if the batter is not so comfortable playing spin, I try to tease them with my loop and turn because I have that turn. So it’s just to read the conditions and the match situation, when to bowl what.
How did you stay mentally and physically fit during a demanding tournament like the Caribbean Premier League?
It’s simple for me, I keep it really simple on my off days. I just stick to gym sessions and running. Other than that, my rehab and everything (else) just go on. So I keep it really simple so that I stay fresh on match days because we played five matches and I had to be fresh. I’ll do all the other routines on my off days.
Women’s cricket is gaining popularity worldwide. How do you see your role in inspiring young girls to take up cricket and pursue their dreams in the sport?
Now, every girl knows where women’s cricket has reached. And before it was like – ‘why do we have to pick up this sport? Is there an outcome? Are we gonna get something out of it, can we make a career out of it? There was a question mark and then seeing India what they’re doing now, I think people are, finally, like we can take this in a challenging way, we can make a career out of this. To inspire other young girls, I only say that the hard work and commitment should be at 120 per cent. There is no replacement (for that). You can’t say that I can’t give my 100% and still be doing what the other players are doing. So you have to make sure you give in that 120% on and off the field. So even if you’re doing your gym session, you should give 100%. Yeah, so that’s all I say. Just have fun while you’re playing. Don’t take too much of pressure. Have fun. Just enjoy your game and then be open to learning is what I say.
What are your aspirations for the future of your cricketing career, both in terms of domestic and international competitions?
When it comes to the domestic season, we’ve been doing really well as a team, the Karnataka team is doing really great, but it’s about winning the cup. Now it’s all about winning the big final so we’re working really hard. As an individual, I have taken up the responsibility to do well in any given situation and just win the matches for my team. So I’ve got that extra experience, extra exposure now after playing in WCPL, the Emerging Asia Cup. It’s an added responsibility for me to do well in the upcoming domestic season. I’m really looking forward to that, and I’m very excited.
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In terms of international cricket, it’s just sticking to what I’m doing now. do well in domestic (cricket), win the matches and then it just reflects there (at the international stage) the same way. Nothing extraordinary for me; just keep doing what I am doing, and just win the match for the team because I’m known for playing that impact role. So I just want to make an impact in whichever team I play. If I keep doing that, I think I’ll reach that level soon.
You have already shone in the WCPL, do you have any plans to try and play in the Women’s Big Bash in the future?
I would love to play just that it’s clashing with the domestic season. So moving forward, I really am looking forward to playing in the WBBL as well. Let’s hope for the best.
We know that you’re a huge admirer of Virat Kohli’s. What impact has he had on your game?
Virat Kohli has been my inspiration from day one since I started playing cricket. He’s the main reason why I picked up the sport. It’s just the vibe that he creates wherever he is. So that is something very special; it’s just not the cricket bits. I kind of see everything and then, the aggression on the field is something which I really admire.
So Virat Kohli has inspired me in many ways, be it in cricket and off the field. So it’s something really nice for me to watch him play. Because I started cricket watching him play. So it’s just the energy he creates on and off the field. So it’s so nice to see him. I want to become like him.
It’s not just the way he showcases his talent on the ground. If you’ve seen the way he picked up Siraj, now Siraj gives most of the credit to Virat Kohli. Even I want to do something like that, to another young girl who would pick up the sport. So, those are the things which I love about him. The way he turns the match, even though he carries a few stitches on his hands, he makes sure he finishes the game. So that is something to take away. Do not give up. Always that never-say-die attitude. Never give up and finish the game. So that inspired me a lot.
Can you share any advice for aspiring female cricketers who look up to you and also dream of playing in a foreign land one day?
It’s so nice to see a small and young girl coming up to me and asking a few questions. So, when I was a kid, I used to do that to my seniors. I used to go and ask a couple of questions. so I think that is very nice to see a young cricketer coming and asking, “Okay, can I do this? Can I learn this?” So if they have the same learning mindset even when they grow, that is the biggest takeaway for them. And also, as I said, just keep working hard, and things will fall your place.
I’ve been doing well, but I know at the right time, I’m gonna get the result. You have to do what’s in your control and do not put your head to what’s not in your control. Just keep doing the things which are in your control, and you will get the success. And keep dreaming because dreams do come true. Keep working hard. 100% commitment. And just enjoy the game with a smile on your face.