CHENNAI: When Deepti Sharma was named vice-captain before the fourth ODI against New Zealand in February 2022 ahead of Smriti Mandhana — with Mithali Raj’s deputy Harmanpreet Kaur left out for the encounter — it took everyone by surprise. She was informed of the decision the day before and continued to don the role even when Harmanpreet came back in the side for the fifth ODI.
It was the first sort of sign from the selectors that they were looking at the 24-year-old as a potential captaincy candidate. Even during the final phase of their game against South Africa at the World Cup, she was in constant discussions with Mithali, Harmanpreet and Smriti between overs.
A couple of months later, as the southpaw was appointed as the captain of Velocity — the team that led was led by Mithali, who is not a part of the upcoming edition — in the Women’s T20 Challenge, the signs had become clear in that the selectors wanted to groom her in a leadership role. That said, like most others, Deepti too found out that she would be captaining a side only when the squads were announced last week.
“Actually, I got to know when the teams were picked. I was not thinking about it at all and there wasn’t any prior communication of sorts. I am always ready for any such extra opportunity. As a captain, when you are leading a side, the responsibility only increases to do well and take the team forward,” the all-rounder said in a press conference on Saturday.
While Deepti has captained in domestic cricket in the past, this would be the first time she'll lead a side with several international stars at the top level. And she wants the players to play with freedom and stay positive all the time.
“I just spoke to the players that you have the freedom to do what you want to do on the field and stick to their strengths. Always stay positive, and don't think about any negative stuff,” she said, adding that her first goal as the captain would be taking the team to the final.
“To get to the final in this format (each team would play two games and the top two will play in the final) would be a big thing. So, reaching there would be our first goal.”
With the likes of Kiran Navgire and Shafali Verma — who struck at 172.69 and 175.14, respectively, in the senior T20 league — in the side, Deepti said that it’ll be exciting to watch. “Kiran is like Shafali, a very hard hitter (of the ball). In the nets, I have seen her mostly hit sixes in the two sessions we have had. It feels like most of the balls will fly into the stands when she is batting. Will be fun to watch.”
When Deepiti did express her interest to bat in the top-order as she did for Bengal recently, she also spoke about any role that the team needs her to play. “Whatever the team management needs, I am always ready for it whether it's in the top or in the middle. It will depend on the demands of the team and the situation.”