WPL 2024: Shreyanka is always in for a fight; that’s the spark you are looking for, says Rangarajan

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) With Harmanpreet Kaur at the crease alongside Amelia Kerr, Mumbai Indians had all the right to feel they had a chance to chase down 136 and enter the final at the expense of Royal Challengers Bangalore in front of more than 27,000 fans in the Eliminator at the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

Luckily for MI, with 20 runs needed off 18 balls, Harmanpreet had a reprieve in the start of 18th over when Richa Ghosh missed a stumping off Shreyanka Patil, leaving the crowd silent. But to their delight, after not giving any room for a big shot, the nerveless Shreyanka had the last laugh as Harmanpreet holed out to long-on to close the over.

That over from Shreyanka in a wonderful spell of 2-18 in four overs turned the match literally in RCB’s favour as MI fell short by five runs to give Smriti Mandhana & Co a shot at lifting the trophy when they face Delhi Capitals in the title clash on Sunday.

Previously in the game, after Yastika Bhatia was dropped in the fourth over, Shreyanka fetched the opening breakthrough for RCB by getting the ball to turn in and forcing Hayley Matthews to slog-sweep straight to deep mid-wicket.

A day before the Eliminator, head coach Luke Williams had said that Shreyanka was itching to put up a big performance in the playoffs. Now, after taking RCB to the final along with Ellyse Perry, Shreyanka’s impactful spell with the ball will be etched in the memories for a long time.

“I would be blatantly lying, not at the last two overs. But maybe when Harmanpreet’s stumping went through and we missed that, there was something inside me saying that if she had got out, we’re in with a sniff. But we got another opportunity (in the same over), and even though it was a regulation catch – taken by Sophie Devine in that pressure and with her experience showed why you need experienced players in the team, apart from Shreyanka Patil being an absolute champion.”

“From there, you start sniffing and you almost believe that it can be done. Lots of things happen when chasing becomes difficult, which could have been in MI’s mind. By the fifth or sixth over, we knew that 150-160 could be a good score. Though there were too many dot balls, I couldn’t pinpoint when the belief came in. But as soon as Harman got out, maybe that’s when we thought there’s something,” said Malolan Rangarajan, RCB assistant coach, in the post-match press conference.

Shreyanka was one of the breakout stars from WPL 2023 and went on to have a CPL stint, followed by making her India debut in both white-ball formats in the series against England and Australia.

A lot was expected from her in the Bengaluru leg of WPL 2024, her home-town. But she had an underwhelming time, taking only two wickets in nine overs, while conceding 100 runs. Shreyanka, though, made a stellar return in the Delhi leg of the competition, taking seven wickets in nine overs, while conceding 45 runs.

While she was bowling away from the batter’s reach in Bengaluru, sticking to stump-to-stump line, and going a little away from the wider lines has brought her rich rewards in Delhi.

“Just the growth of Shreyanka in the last 12-16 months, when we identified and then brought her into the set-up. You could see that she was not behaving like someone of her age or her experience. She was like, slightly above that. She was always in for the fight. That’s the spark you’re looking for. Everyone has the skill but it’s a dog fight which happens inside (on the field) and you’re up for it: Shreyanka always had that in her.”

“Her growth over the last 12 months – playing for India, leading South Zone team in the Zonal One-Days – it has developed her better and helped her understand her own game better. She herself was the first to admit that she didn’t start the tournament as well she would have liked. But she was also the first one to come up and say, ‘I am not bowling well’.”

“She didn’t need me or anyone else like Luke (Williams, head coach) and Courtney (Winfield-Hill, assistant coach) to go to her with that. She came and asked, ‘I am not bowling as well as I can. What can I do?’ She came up with the solutions too. Yes, we chipped in here and there, but that’s her character. When you see people like that, you know that when there are crunch moments, these characters will stand up and deliver.”

“Shreyanka is a warrior, especially to play with the injury she’s playing. Nobody would think that she has an injury as she goes into bat and sweeps the first ball. So these are characters that we are very proud to have in RCB and we are even prouder to see what she does for both the franchise and the country,” elaborated Rangarajan, also RCB’s head of scouting.

He also recalled what made Shreyanka stand out from the rest of the domestic players they were keeping their eyes on. “When we saw her playing for Karnataka, she was a 19-year-old playing for the senior team, bowling the tough overs. It wasn’t like she was just participating, she was delivering the yorkers under pressure. Along with her coach Arjun (Dev), she does center-wicket practice and simulation, and there’s nothing left to chance. The way she was practicing was different from our peers, and was slightly ahead of them.”

While Shreyanka has been at her best and found her mojo with the ball, one needs to realise that the match-winning performances are coming despite her little finger heavily taped, an injury which kept her out of two consecutive matches.

“If given an option, Shreyanka would have liked to play both the games. Like I said, that’s the character she is. The work she’s put in between those games, even when she was injured, we had rented out a couple grounds, had centre wickets for her, where she was bowling, and working on her different releases.”

“Because there was a moment where she wanted to release the ball a particular way and it was going out a different way. So, a lot of volume practice went into it with myself, with Luke and Courtney, all of us chipping in. So it was all very conscious practice and we simulated a lot.”

“Even in the nets we were simulating, like ‘okay so tomorrow you’re going to bowl to X player, this is how the player likes to score, this is what the player looks like if she wants to play a single. so let’s try to attack this line, we need the ball to end up at this length’.”

“She was very good with that. Admittedly she may not have executed as well as she wanted but she kept going when she was injured. Finally it’s all about the feel and the rhythm and I think somewhere in that (practice sessions) she found the rhythm again,” explained Rangarajan.

Heading to the stadium, one could see RCB’s red taking over as the preferred jersey choice amongst fans. The RCB jersey-wearing fans stood in line for around two hours before the match began and cheered their hearts out, hoping their team would make it to Sunday’s final, and guess what? They did!

Even on the metro ride home after the game, you couldn’t miss the fans wearing RCB jerseys and loudly cheering for the team, while talking about all the twists & turns in the game. A large part of their happiness was made possible by Shreyanka’s stellar efforts with the ball, ensuring they turn up on Sunday with the same fervour seen on Friday.



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