It wasn’t just about the cricket, important as that was, during the Women’s T20 Challenge series. The 12 overseas internationals from five countries shared the dressing room with the 27 Indians in the mix, celebrated birthdays together, and learnt more about each other than they would have had a chance to in the past. ESPNcricinfo spoke to some of them about the memories they will take back.
Atapattu’s got her eye on Harman’s willow
Halfway through the tournament, Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu had a long-cherished dream fulfilled. Soon after Supernovas’ nets session ended on Wednesday evening, Atapattu, who played under Harmanpreet Kaur, joined her captain near the pavilion. As the Indian batsman started removing her gear, Atapattu drew Harmanpreet’s attention to the latter’s bat, and we witnessed an animated chat between two of the hardest hitters in women’s cricket.
“I play against Harman very often [in internationals, at the Kia Super League and the Women’s Big Bash League], but never quite got an opportunity to touch her bat,” Atapattu told ESPNcricinfo later that evening. “I have often wondered, ‘how someone so wiry can hit such long sixes just like that?’ When I learnt last month I would be playing for Harman’s side, I made up my mind I’d get a feel of her bat no matter what.”
So what was the feel like, what did Atapattu make of one of the most feared weapons of destruction in the women’s game?
“The weight [of Harmanpreet’s bat, around 1170-1180 grams] seemed more or less the same [as mine], but Harman says she particularly likes this bat because of the ease of pick-up [for her high back-lift] it offers,”Atapattu explained. “When a great batsman like Harman holds a good bat, the wood works wonders beyond ways imagined. I’m just happy I was able to touch it.”
‘Smriti sleeps’, Ecclestone is caked, Bates soaks it all in
Bates’ curiosity about cultural differences gave her a peek into Mandhana’s, and the other Indians’, habit of getting a little shut-eye as often as they can.
“We are just so different how we go about our day sometimes,” Bates said. “I’d ask them if they’d like to go for lunch, go do dinner, but they would be sleeping most of the time (laughs).
“I am like, ‘Smriti, what have you done today?’ ‘I slept till 12,’ she’d say. And, yes, Smriti absolutely loves to sleep. And then, ‘Harleen [Deol], how about you?’ ‘I was sleeping, too.’ So, I had to give them a time in late afternoon so they could be up.”
Bates was also involved in rescuing young England spinner Sophie Ecclestone from a cake attack on her 20th birthday, the same day as the Trailblazers v Supernovas tournament opener.
“Sophie is young, she is not quite as [clued into the culture in India] as some other players,” Bates said. “On her birthday, they brought a cake, which was a lovely gesture, and when the Indians started rubbing it on her face, she just didn’t know what to do (laughs). I told her, ‘You just embrace it as part of the culture.’ It was one of my favourite change-room memories.”
Take it easy, like Hayley Matthews
Sushma Verma was part of the Indian side that, to this day, struggles to come to terms with their epic meltdown at the 2017 World Cup final. During the Women’s T20 Challenge, when Verma watched a world champion from West Indies up close, the difference between how the two camps approach adversity struck her.
“Two days ago [in Velcoity’s second game], I was padded up from the seventh over, and I was waiting for my turn,” Verma recounted. “[Hayley] Matthews (the 2016 World T20 Player of the Match in the final), who just got out and walked back into the dugout, [was so calm]. An Indian player would have probably been upset, but Matthews kept talking to me, and I didn’t even realise that I am up for batting next. When the last ball of the match was sent down, it struck me again that I was next.
“It was so chilled out, and I liked the fact that they have such a positive approach. Their plans don’t change because of quick wickets. At the end of the day, you’re targeting 150-160, and you cannot change your approach if you lose a wicket or two. That’s the main learning I would like to carry forward. Personally I have learnt how to stay tension-free and chilled-out in all situations.”
Young Harleen Deol and Rodrigues play mentors to the seniors
Indian youngsters Harleen Deol and Jemimah Rodrigues, all of 20 and 18 respectively, impressed with not only their batting but their mentorship skills, underscored West Indies and Sri Lanka captains Stafanie Taylor and Atapattu.
“She’d say initially: ‘Take your time, play yourself in, and then switch it up’,” Taylor, the 2016 World T20-winning captain, said about Deol taking up the aggressor’s role in the second game. “And then when we decided we need to up the ante and go for runs, she was like, ‘I’ll go, you stay’. And I went, ‘Okay’. It’s reverse (laughs). As the senior pro, I liked how she asked me to take a step back and took responsibility.”
Atapattu, meanwhile, took note of Rodrigues’ support during the third game. “Jemi was discussing how we should aim for small targets from the fifth over to the eighth over,” she said. “When I was struggling with the timing, she advised I try and just time it instead of hitting the ball hard. She is confident, multi-talented, and a very helpful girl.”