Just like the rest of India, Smriti Mandhana had goosebumps watching Neeraj Chopra wear the gold medal, standing at the Tokyo Olympics podium with the national anthem playing at the stadium. The India women’s team vice-captain now wants to experience the same going into the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“I had literally got goosebumps when Neeraj Chopra got it (gold medal) in Olympics, so we have an opportunity to be there and triumph,” the 26-year old said in a press conference ahead of the team’s departure to Birmingham for the Games.
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) July 22, 2022
“I don’t think we’ll just look for a podium finish because when the flag goes higher and the national anthem plays, it’s the best feeling.”
It is an alien feeling for a cricket team to contest for a medal rather than a trophy. And the stylish southpaw batter is imagining India doing the same in their first Commonwealth Games.
“We haven’t had experience of playing CWG, where we will be striving to get a gold medal because we always have imagined us lifting the trophy and trying to put us on the podium where we lift the trophy. Now we have to imagine going on the podium and getting a medal. It’s something very new.”
With cricket making its debut in the upcoming edition of the CWG, Mandhana is also looking forward to interacting with other athletes in the village about their diet and training regime.
“It is something very new for me and also the team,” she said. “We’ve never experienced going out and playing a tournament where other sports are also involved. I don’t have anyone in particular but I would just like to have conversations with different athletes, knowing what kind of training they do and all of that stuff. We did that a little when we did a show in the lockdown and we got a lot of takeaways. Meeting them in person would be amazing. Trying to know their game, share the experiences, I think that would be amazing.”
Players from the Indian squad recently underwent a skills and fitness camp on the back of a successful tour of Sri Lanka where they won the T20I and ODI series (2-1 and 3-0 respectively). Mandhana is optimistic of the team’s and her own preparations over the course.
“Sri Lanka was a really good preparation for us, the ODIs and the T20s. We’ve also had a good fitness camp. A few girls have had a fitness camp, few girls have had a skills camp. We’ve been working on things that individually people need.”
“Wouldn’t term Australia as a big team”
The Indian team will play Australia in the opening match of the cricket tournament at the Birmingham games on Friday, July 29. A team that has played India a total of three times in the last T20 and ODI World Cup on their way to lifting both the trophies. Recently playing a tri-series in Ireland also featuring Pakistan, Australia walk into CWG 2022 as favorites for the gold. Mandhana however said, she, the and team aren’t looking at them as a bigger challenge than the rest.
“I would not term them a big team or a small team because I feel when you go out and play a T20 tournament, every team is equal,” she said.
“I think on that day, any team can beat any team. So I wouldn’t term Australia as a big team and make them feel good about that. I don’t think they are a big team. Definitely in our head, Australia, Pakistan and Barbados all three games are important and we’ll go as it comes. We want to go out there and win every match we can.”