WPL 2024: With aims clearly in sight, Shweta Sehrawat eager to capitalize on dream-like run

February 17, 2024
At first glance, Shweta Sehrawat seems like a regular teenager who enjoys watching movies and playing games in her free time,

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) At first glance, Shweta Sehrawat seems like a regular teenager who enjoys watching movies and playing games in her free time, as well as partaking in fun activities such as going on outings outside Delhi or doing some shopping.

However, if you consider her recent achievements in cricket over the past year and a half, Shweta is anything but an ordinary teenager. There’s a rare sense of excitement and clarity in the right-handed batter’s voice when she discusses how performing as a leader brings out her best.

Shweta’s first tryst with taking up the leadership mantle came as the captain of Delhi U19 side and leading India U19 ‘B’ team in Challenger Trophy. It was followed by leading the side to wins in the quadrangular series featuring Sri Lanka and West Indies, as well as a series win over New Zealand in Mumbai, before Shafali Verma led the team in tri-series in South Africa and in the U19 World Cup.

“I believe I put up good performances when I am entrusted with leadership roles, as I really like taking that responsibility of the team on my shoulders. Plus, there’s also a feeling within me that ‘If I bat on from one end, then others can bat around me’, which is why I really like to thrive as a batter with a leadership responsibility,” says Shweta in a free-wheeling chat with IANS, facilitated by UP Warriorz.

Over the past one-and-a-half years, Shweta has rapidly climbed the ladder of success in women’s cricket. She scored 297 runs with an outstanding average of 99. Moreover, she emerged as the top run-scorer in India’s triumphant 2023 U19 Women’s T20 World Cup campaign, leaving a lasting impression with her unbeaten 92 off just 57 balls against hosts South Africa.

UP Warriorz picked Shweta for the inaugural WPL season last year, but she managed just 34 runs from six games. Due to constant shuffling, her batting position was never stable, and was even left out of the side. Shweta then skippered India ‘A’ to winning the Emerging Women’s Asia Cup in Hong Kong, where constant rain meant the side got to play only two matches.

“The last one and a half years has been an absolute dream time for me – the U19 World Cup win, especially when the country hadn’t got a global trophy in women’s cricket. For me, that was the best-ever feeling and is still very memorable.”

“Then bringing the Emerging Women’s Asia Cup trophy as a leader is also a memorable moment. Also, I performed very well in the senior tournaments in domestic cricket. So, everything is on track and WPL in hand has made me feel like it’s kinda been a dreamlike time for me and it feels really good,” she says.

Two years before becoming a member of India’s U19 World Cup squad, Shweta had a poster in her room that read, “World Cup Champion!”. Asked about her latest poster, her leader-like clarity strikes again. “There’s a poster, but it’s on my phone. It’s a poster about the 2025 Women’s ODI World Cup in India, the aim to play in that tournament.”

While WPL 2023 didn’t result in a bucket full of runs for her, Shweta gained crucial knowledge on how to overcome her shyness and become a more effective communicator. “I am a bit of a shy nature, so in the first season of WPL, it became a little difficult for me to communicate initially.”

“I wasn’t opening up about talks around the game and I learnt from WPL 2023 that how to initiate that communication, put forward your thoughts and express yourself in such a way that you get the solution you are looking for. I got a lot of help in terms of communication and in cricketing terms, I learnt a lot of new things from the players as well as Jon (Lewis, head coach) sir and Ashley (Noffke, bowling coach).”

Whenever she opened the batting in the yellow and purple jersey of the Warriorz, Shweta partnered with Australia skipper Alyssa Healy at the top. “I didn’t talk much with her, but then I used to see a lot of her batting at the nets and there were some shots coming off her bat which I was seeing constantly. I used to stand behind her when she was practising her batting and would observe how she would be inventive in her strokeplay,” she recalls.

Shweta also learned how to prepare for matches and the game-related scenarios from her time with the Warriorz. “Our practice sessions are very specific, like we are given different match-related situations.”

“Thing is, if we get solutions of tacking those game-related situations in practice and handle the pressure associated with it, then it becomes easier to get to grips about it when that happens in an actual match. Through this, we become aware about facing situations like that in the match and how to react to it.”

Shweta comes into WPL 2024 on the back of a stellar run in the recent domestic cricket season for Delhi. Armed with an ability to pick gaps with ease and play shots all around the park, Shweta was 11th in the run-scorers list of senior women’s T20 trophy with 229 runs in six innings at an average of 45.80 and a strike-rate of 122.45, including hitting two fifties.

In the senior women’s one-day trophy, Shweta was the tournament’s top run-scorer with 462 runs in eight innings at an average of 66 and strike-rate of 110.79, smashing two fifties and a jaw-dropping 242 against Nagaland at the MECON Ground in Ranchi.

In between, she bagged the Most Promising Athlete of the Year award by GoSports Foundation, who support her and 12 other cricketers, including Titas Sadhu and Kashvee Gautam, through the Equal Hue Cricket Excellence Programme.

“My batting approach is generally attacking. If I get a ball to hit early on, I will hit that ball hard for a boundary and I don’t hesitate in doing that. The most special thing about that knock was that people generally think that teams like that are a bit light to play against. But I feel that no team is to be taken lightly in the domestic season.”

“The best thing about that knock was I played in such a manner that I didn’t give them any chance to get me out in any way. Apart from that, the other most-liked aspect of that knock for me was batting for a long duration and remaining focused all the time,” recalls Shweta.

Mandeep Kaur, Delhi’s fielding coach, was one of the few fortunate persons at the ground to see Shweta’s astonishing 242, laced with 31 fours and seven sixes. “It was extraordinary; she was very dominating, very confident, it was a totally different knock from her bat.”

“From the very first ball, she looked to score and was hitting at every ball coming her way. In cricket we say, ‘once you get the chance, just score on and on’, she played that kind of knock that day. It was a special knock to witness since it was a chanceless one,” she said to IANS.

Shweta credits her improved fitness during the domestic season for her impressive performances. “I did a lot of ground work and gym-related activities this time for a longer duration, due to which my endurance and speed levels have increased.”

To improve herself as a batter, Shweta watches countless batting videos of Ellyse Perry and Danni Wyatt, who is now part of her team at Warriorz. “I really like Danni’s shots over covers, which look very amazing. I really adore Perry’s consistency and how in every match she remains so focused to put up consistent performances. Plus her fielding skills are a big plus point.”

Asked if she’s met Danni yet to learn about the art of her shots over covers, Shweta bursts into a laugh and says, “With Danni now in my team, I will definitely ask her about how she plays those shots over covers. I had just met her by the pool side, but I didn’t have the courage to go and talk to her, so I haven’t met her yet. I just hope to meet and speak to her in the coming days.”

Shweta, also an English honors student, appreciates the role of family, friends, and coaches in maintaining a balance between cricket and studies. “Initially it was tough, as I attended only last seven days of the NCA camp (for the U19 team) due to Board exams.”

“But then I put in good performances, including hitting a century and people there saw potential in me, so they took me in the team. As of now, my studies are online, so the slots are adjusted online as per the timings. For me, reaching here at this stage, the environment back home matters a lot.”

Playing for the Warriorz in WPL 2023 allowed Shweta to get a glimpse towards being flexible with her batting position based on the team’s needs. With her coach Dipti Dhyani’s advice, she is eager to give it her all in the upcoming season. “It depends on team combination and as per what the team’s needs are with regards to my batting position. I always look to be at my best and contribute for the team wherever possible which goes in a positive way.”

“Wherever I bat or play matches, whether it’s WPL or domestic cricket, the intention has always been to perform to the best of abilities and make the team win, after that, its upto the selectors. The best advice I got from Dipti mam was ‘one should always follow their routines and, irrespective of what the result is, give your 100% to anything you set out to do’.”

According to Shweta, playing in her hometown of Delhi during the second half of WPL 2024 will be a lot of fun. “When I played in front of a packed crowd in WPL 2023, I was very nervous. But I will be fine this time. It will be a lot of fun when the WPL matches will happen in Delhi, as all my family members will come and enjoy a lot.”

Mandeep first spotted Shweta in the Delhi senior team during the domestic season hit by Covid-19. The sight of her scoring a century in a match convinced Mandeep that the youngster is bound for greatness. “She’s a great fielder too; she mostly fields at mid-on, but is capable of fielding anywhere in outfield and infield.”

“Shweta’s form has been really good as an opener. She’s a very good and formidable player who doesn’t play slow on the wicket and maintains her strike-rate well. So I wish to see her continue in the same vein in the WPL, like she did for Delhi in the domestic season, so that she can reach greater heights in women’s cricket.”

–IANS

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