SURAT: It is difficult to resist talking about Deepti Sharma after her performance in India women’s 11-run win over South Africa in the first T20I on Tuesday. On her way to figures of 4-3-8-3, she also achieved the feat of becoming the first Indian to bowl three maidens in the shortest format.
Deepti is undoubtedly a key part of India’ spin attack. She was the third-highest wicket-taker for the team last year (18 in 19 matches). However, since her debut in 2016 as a batting all-rounder, Deepti has been under-utilised with the willow.
The 22-year-old holds the record for India’s highest individual score in ODIs — 188 against Ireland in 2017 — is a testament to her batting skills. Though she isn’t in the power-hitter mould of her skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti is capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking, irrespective of the format. Though her T20I strike rate may say otherwise (91.81), her maiden Kia Super League (KSL) stint in UK for Western Storm may change your mind. Seven outings with the bat. Three match-defining cameos. An average of 53 with a strike rate of 145.2.
Since 2018, Deepti has batted in 15 of India’s 24 matches. Eight of those appearances have come at Nos 6 to 9, and seven at Nos 3, 4 and 5. Ironically, her KSL numbers — which seem far more promising — seem to be correlated with the fact that she was mostly at No 6 for Storm.
Though such shunting can often throw a player off rhythm, the Agra native says that she has accepted the challenge. “I am alert for all positions, top-order or middle-order. You have to be mentally prepared. You have to play positively. So it’s not very difficult; it’s easy.
“(It’s) mostly middle order, so that’s where I’m batting. And in T20s, you don’t know how many balls you will have. I know that if I’m going to get only 10 deliveries to face, I need to score maximum runs. That’s all my target is.”
In the past few months, Deepti’s focus has been on batting. Knowing that clearing the ropes is not her cup of tea, Deepti has been working on her timing and running between the wickets.
“My strength is to rotate the strike and hit boundaries along the ground. That’s what I have worked on. It is not a necessity that everyone has to hit big shots. Some have the power, some don’t. I have worked more on scoring along the ground, focussing on crossing the 22 yards quickly. My main focus is not on hitting sixes.”
Perhaps aping her idol Suresh Raina, Deepti’s go-to shots have been lofted and inside-out cover drives. Deepti’s been perfecting those ahead of the next World T20, where she could be expected to be more proactive with the bat. “Because of the World T20, I have been practising lofted shots with the bowling machine. I’ve been aiming for the arc between long-off and long-on. They are improving.”
Now in the fifth year of her international career, Deepti wants to do more than just to feature in a blue-riband tournament.
“I wish that we become the champions in any format. I want to be a part of a World Cup-winning side. Everyone dreams of being a part of one, and so do I.”