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WPL 2023: One big innings from Smriti can turn things around for RCB, says Saba Karim

With losses in all of its five matches so far, the Smriti Mandhana-led side are under immense pressure to win the rest of its three games and hope for other results to go their way for making a miraculous entry into the playoffs.

Left-handed Smriti, also the opener for RCB, has been a shadow of her fluent self with the bat, making only 88 runs in five innings averaging 17.60 at a strike rate of 117.33. Former India wicketkeeper-batter Saba Karim believes one big knock from Smriti can give the turnaround RCB need in their WPL campaign.

"As a captain, you would be hoping to turn this around and I am sure such big players, they have a pride attached to their performances and it’s the first time in India, she’s playing for a franchise."

"So, it brings a lot of pressure; it does have its own responsibilities and when you are unable to lead from the front in terms of your batting, then it does affect the entire team’s performance. Smriti is experienced enough to understand that, and one big innings from her can turn things around for RCB," said Karim while replying to a question from IANS in a virtual interaction facilitated by Viacom18.

In the tournament, Smriti has got out four times to spinners so far. While in the first three games, she fell to off-spinners Alice Capsey, Hayley Matthews and Ashleigh Gardner, Smriti was dismissed by UP Warriorz left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad in RCB’s fourth match.

Karim, a WPL expert on Sports18 and JioCinema, thinks Smriti needs to give herself time to understand the pattern of her dismissals to spin and get back to her natural run-making self.

"It is a very open kind of game these days. The performance analysts and coaches work hard to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents. That is what all franchises have done, especially against Smriti Mandhana, because she’s such an important player for RCB and more so as a top-order player."

"So, number one would be to spend more time at the wicket and also understand how the bowlers are trying to get her out. If she gets over the thought process of her opponents, only then you can score runs. To some extent, you need to give time to understand the conditions and at times, one feels that she is trying too hard to score runs. Run-making comes quite naturally to Smriti, and needs to give herself some more time."

In the tournament, RCB tried a plethora of strategies, like swapping their overseas options, backing uncapped domestic talent, and shuffling the batting order. But none of those clicked for them. Karim felt RCB not getting consistent results from some of the big names in T20 cricket have caused them to be at the bottom of the points table.

"On paper, they are a very formidable side. But I believe, in such tournaments, your big names have to perform consistently. Unfortunately for RCB, that has not taken place, be it be Smriti Mandhana, Megan Schutt, Heather Knight, Ellyse Perry or Sophie Devine, you need a collective effort from all of them."

"Once you get that kind of kickstart from such big names, then the others also chip in. Here, I think they are struggling to find solutions. They are in this position because none of the big names have come out with remarkable performances. Hopefully, that would change for the rest of the tournament."

"If you look at MI or Delhi Capitals, Harmanpreet Kaur and Meg Lanning have stepped up as captains and batters, so as Shafali Verma and Hayley Matthews for their respective teams. Such players lift morale and spirit of the side and that is what RCB have lacked so far in the tournament."

"I hope they do come back in the competition because a win gives you a lot of takeaways. Even if it may not be for this season, at least for the next season, a couple of wins would really help them to boost their morale and to think on the lines of having a balanced side. For that, they would need performances from the entire side," he concluded.



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