For the Indian women Cricket Team, the sport took a backseat last year. Post the ICC Women’s World Cup T20 that took place where the team lost to Australia in the finale, the pandemic put a halt on ongoing matches. The players were stuck at home trying their best to stay fit and keep practising. 2021 seems hopeful as the team gears up for an ODI with England in June, amongst other international games. The bunch then heads to Birmingham, UK, for a historic participation in the Commonwealth Games (CWG), 2022.
CWG has invited women’s cricket teams to participate in the Games for the first time—the grounds were earlier opened for men’s cricket in 1998. Led by Harmanpreet Kaur, India will go up against hosts England, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, and a yet-unannounced country from the West Indies. 4500 athletes will compete in the Games; ELLE caught up with Harmanpreet, Taniya Bhatia and Shikha Subas Pandey to see how the team preparing for this event.
“The CWG will be one of the first competitions for us where we play alongside such a large number of athletes from different sports. Our team looks mentally strong at the moment even though we have not played at all in 2020,” Harmanpreet shares. The Arjuna awardee team captain is not too worried about the timelines of the games. “We are scheduled to play back-to-back games later in the year; by the time we play CWG, the team will have had some great experiences on the field against the top teams in the world,” she displays confidence.
Mirroring her thoughts is Shikha. A pacer and batter for the team, Shikha is assured that the Indian team is, “One of the best sides, if not the best, in the shorter format.” She believes that CWG will also help the sport grow internationally. “It will provide cricket more visibility, especially within Commonwealth countries where this sport is historically not popular. The very thought of being able to grow women’s cricket globally is exciting to me,” she says.
For our wicketkeeper Taniya, the excitement lies in going back to the stadium and playing among a crowd of supporters. “We’ve missed out on supporters at many of our games and it really isn’t the same then. The UK is now allowing a staggering number of fans; I hope that the situation improves in the coming months so that the Games can see a good crowd with safety precautions in place.” Harmanpreet adds that interacting with sportspeople across the world is something she’s looking forward to. “I’ll be at the opening ceremony where thousands of athletes will stand under one roof. The energies will multiply, and the interactions would be superb,” she says.
For all three players, staying fit mentally and physically during the last few months has been tough. They had to make do with what was available. “It’s never easy for an athlete to train with lockdowns in place but we have been training and trying to keep ourselves fit with the available facilities. Many of us have set up small gyms at home and we try to get in skill sessions whenever possible,” Shikha shares.
Each one of them has coped in their own way. Harmanpreet chose to stay away from negative discussions to keep her morale high and Taniya found her peace in the power of a community. “We’re seeing so many people come forward and help each other, strangers wanting to help strangers, and that has really helped,” she says.
For now, the formidable trio assures us that the team is aligned in the victory mindset and is working towards one goal—to be prepared for every challenge and make the country proud.
Photographs: Mike Owen-ICC/Getty Images; Ryan Pierse/Getty Images; Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images