Deepti Sharma, the India all-rounder, is keen to add power, range and variation to her batting as the team step up their preparation for the ICC Women’s World T20 2018.
Sharma, who will turn 21 this week, has an average of 15.5 from 15 Twenty20 Internationals, as compared to a commendable 43.92 from 39 one-day internationals. She strikes at 93 and 64.12 respectively in the two formats.
Numbers such as these have meant she is seen as a grafter, who takes a few balls to settle in before she can crank up the scoring rate. But that is not a reputation Sharma wants. She has been working on expanding her range to give herself the best chance of playing a big role for her team in the WWT20 in the Caribbean in November.
Her intent has been on display in the past week, when she led her side – one of the three teams facing off in the Challenger Trophy, India’s top domestic T20 tournament for women – to the final.
She has averaged 31 in the tournament from five matches, striking 16 fours and two sixes along the way, for a strike rate of 107.82. In the final, where she struck 45, albeit in a losing cause, she showed off her skill in being able to play on both sides of the wicket, and did not hesitate to sweep.
Perhaps no shot better reflected the mentality of the left-hander than a slog-swept six off a fast bowler.
“I’ve been practising new shots for the World T20,” Sharma told the ICC. “The upper cut, the hook shot, the pull – these are vital in a T20 game.
“I’m also practising power hitting. I haven’t made any changes to my technique since the 2017 [ICC Women's] World Cup, but I’m trying to introduce new shots to my game.”
Before this tournament, Sharma did not have a great time of it at the Women’s T20 Asia Cup. But now, with runs under her belt and tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies coming up, she’s high on self-belief.
“We’re learning from these matches and our confidence is growing,” she said. “If we carry that confidence to West Indies [for the WT20], it’ll be a plus point for us.”
India are drawn in the same half as Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland for the WWT20. Progression to the next stage promises to be a tricky affair for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 runners-up, but they are hoping the recent experience of playing two of these four teams will come into use.
“The recent tri-series [with England and Australia in Mumbai in March-April] helped a lot,” said Sharma. “We saw the batters there. If you’re able to read the batter, it’ll help you decide in what areas to bowl. And we saw where the bowlers bowled, too.”
While India haven't named their squad yet for the competition, Sharma, who has become a regular in the side, can reasonably expect to be part of the tour to the Caribbean. It will be her first to that part of the world. One big unknown for her is the weather and the conditions.
For that, she hopes to pick the brain of Smriti Mandhana, the India opener, who lit up the Women’s Cricket Super League in England. “I’ve heard it’s hot in the West Indies,” said Sharma. “I don’t know what really to expect with the weather. Maybe Smriti can help us, since she’s playing in the Super League and there are a few West Indies players there [Stafanie Taylor is a part of Mandhana's team, Western Storm]. I’ll discuss the conditions with her.”
Like for the rest of the Indian team, the youngster's life has taken a turn since the heady events of 2017 at Lord's. "People’s expectations have gone up after the World Cup," she admitted. "But we will give our best. All the faith people have in us, we will live up to that faith."
– by Karunya Keshav