WPL 2024: Smriti Mandhana has been very strong in bringing calmness to the group, says RCB coach Williams

March 14, 2024
Ahead of their Eliminator clash against Mumbai Indians in WPL 2024 on Friday, Luke Williams, the head coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore

New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) Ahead of their Eliminator clash against Mumbai Indians in WPL 2024 on Friday, Luke Williams, the head coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore, has credited captain Smriti Mandhana for being a very strong figure in terms of bringing calmness to the team, which in turn has been one of the key reasons behind them making the playoffs for the first time.

Smriti has been the side’s leading run-getter in WPL 2024 with 259 runs in eight matches, including two half-centuries. As a leader, she’s given an assured look in taking the team to playoffs, which was missing from last year’s tournament, where RCB lost their first five games to be ousted quickly from the race to knockouts.

“Smriti is having a fabulous tournament with the bat and in her leadership too. The experience of last year’s campaign and having 12 months to plan, review and look at the different aspects of how the team should be has been helpful.”

“Smriti has been fundamental in all sort of that planning ahead of this tournament and has been very strong in bringing that calmness to the group, which has been really important by Smriti in being the leader on and off the field. So, delighted with her leadership and how she’s dealing with it,” said Williams in the pre-match press conference.

Apart from Smriti, Sabbhineni Meghana has shined for RCB in the matches she’s played, though the right-handed batter didn’t feature in the last few games, with Sophie Devine and Sophie Molineux taking turns to be partnered alongside Smriti at the top in her absence.

Williams put it down to RCB trying other combinations, while indicating Meghana has a strong chance to play Friday’s eliminator at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. “Meghana has missed out on the last game or two due to the different combinations that we were trying. It was a really tough decision with her, as she performed really strongly in one of our earlier wins.”

“But there were some aspects of team combination that we were trying to do different things and Meghana will be under strong consideration as she’s been influential in the start of innings.”

Other Indian players like wicketkeeper-batter Richa Ghosh, who’s amassed 226 runs, along with two catches, four run-outs and eight stumpings, as well as fast-bowler Renuka Singh Thakur and off-spin all-rounder Shreyanka Patil (4/26 against Delhi Capitals) have been key figures in RCB’s Indian core performing the job.

“They have been fantastic on and off the field. With myself coming in, getting to know their knowledge of local players and conditions has been fantastic. Their communication in terms of sharing knowledge and experiences has been great. Richa has been stellar with both bat and gloves; she’s been calm in run-chases and situations, so she has been superb really in the tournament.”

“Renuka bowls the tough overs in power-play against some of the world’s best players. Though there have been times where she hasn’t got that bit of consistency, she’s bowled some really important overs in certain moments that have really stood up. Shreyanka, after a niggle kept her out of some games, has been superb and is primed up for some really big playoffs games. So, the contribution from Indian players has been amazing in terms of what they bring on the field and also off the field,” added Williams.

One of the striking aspects of RCB’s campaign has been players stepping up on different days – like in Delhi leg of WPL 2024, Richa almost took the team over the line in their thrilling clash against Delhi on Sunday, while the experienced Ellyse Perry demolished Mumbai with a sensational 6-15 and made an unbeaten 40 with the bat.

“Its exciting to qualify for the playoffs and to do that, you certainly need different contributors at different times and that’s what we have been able to do. We certainly haven’t been anywhere near to the perfect game – but some good performances have got us over the line. We had lots of different contributors at different times and we feel like we are eager to play some good cricket hopefully on Friday and if possible, on Sunday as well,” added Williams.

Williams has coached Adelaide Strikers to consecutive WBBL titles and feels getting the balance right in the bowling combination, where RCB lacked last year and was duly rectified in the mini-auction, should help the team be steady in the playoffs, apart from pointing out catching as the key in Friday’s clash.

“It’s a little bit of experience with T20 and franchise cricket that there are ups and downs in a tournament and the best way to navigate, especially in the down times, is to stay calm and be quite level.”

“We have been quite consistent with the way we reviewed games, whether we won or lost, and have discussions on the things we have done well, things to improve, style of cricket we want to play.”

“There has been a real confidence that if we are able to play our best cricket, then we can challenge all teams in the competition – that’s been something which has been thinking on across and in lead-up to the tournament and so far, it’s been okay.”

“From the auctions, we got a real balance between fast and spin bowling, and we feel we got those options depending on the surface and how it plays out. We have got the bowlers who have asked questions of Mumbai’s batters and have got some real match winners in our batting line-up.”

“Looking for those two aspects to complement each other and in times like this, fielding and catching in the small moments is so important – that will certainly be a big focus for us going tomorrow,” he concluded.



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