Shikha Pandey waves to one of her team-mates. © Getty Images

This story was originally published in the second issue of the Women’s CricZone Magazine.

 

It’s 4.30 am on a chilly winter morning. I wrestle with my thoughts and the comforter for a while — my mind telling me the logical thing to do would be stay under covers where it is warm, my heart saying that I need to get in a conditioning session before I head off to work. After a few minutes of struggling I am out of bed, changed and off to the cricket ground for a running session.

By now, it is close to 5.30 am, but there is (obviously) no sign of the sun and the rest of the world seems fast asleep. “Oh well!” I think to myself as I set up the markers.

A little over 20 minutes later I am drenched in sweat — despite the relative chill in the air — in the middle of a challenging run. I can feel the burn in my legs. It’s like they are begging me to slow down for just a bit, but my mind is in control.

It’s not time to stop yet! Two more reps!

Soon enough I’m done, and headed off back to my room to get ready for work. It’s the first day of the week, so I can’t afford to be late! A shower, a rushed breakfast and straight to the office… No matter what anyone says, I am living the dream!

Welcome to my life — part international cricketer, part Air Force officer.

***

© Getty Images

Shikha Pandey in action. © Getty Images

Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays — most days at work are the same for me. Stationed in the northern part of India as an administrative officer, I look after things like work services and civil administration on a daily basis. My day normally goes such: training early in the morning, work after, and skill sessions in the evening.

I was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as an Air Traffic Control officer on June 30, 2012. Back then, managing both work and cricket was extremely difficult. Honestly — since this was before my international debut — I thought at that point cricket would have to take a back seat. However — I guess I can count my lucky stars — two years after I joined Air Force, thanks to the support of Air Force Sports Control Board (AFSCB) I managed to mount a comeback and chase my other dream.

Now, since I am lucky to have very accommodating seniors, I always manage to find time to squeeze in some practice during the course of the day. I am lucky that the Air Force men’s team practises at the same ground, so whenever possible, I make sure to hone my skills alongside them. It’s great fun— the banter, the competition, and the speed at which everything happens in men’s cricket. Playing with the boys is a challenge I believe every player should take up.

Practice done, and I am back home for dinner, another quick shower and then off to bed. Normally after a day like this I am exhausted, and need all the sleep I can get in order to be ready for another taxing 24-hours.

***

The week is over and I am heading back home to prepare for the season. Thanks to the AFSCB I am given time off to join my state team for a training camp. It’s an off-season camp which means I have more time to work on specifics rather than focus on short-term goals ahead of a tournament.

Having said that I am not of the opinion that you cannot tweak your technique during a season. Only recently I worked on my bowling run-up with the bowling coach, Narendra Hirwani, who travelled with us to the West Indies, and his inputs have helped me immensely. He is such an experienced coach, and the best thing about working with him has been that he makes the process very simple. He does not give you complex cues. It is all about getting the basics going and how the process can be simplified.

This time, with my skills, I’m going to work on two particulars— a few tweaks with a series in mind. First, is a slower delivery that I am trying to perfect, and the second is my lofted strokes.

ALSO READ: From forgotten to frontline: Shikha Pandey swings her way back in to the spotlight

Shikha Pandey celebrates a wicket. © ICC

Therefore, after my training and breakfast in the morning, I head off to the ground again to get in my specialised skills session. On bowling days, I make sure to get in a minimum of 12 overs at match level intensity. Even though I am working on a particular type of delivery that does not mean every ball I bowl is the slower ball. My stock delivery is not to be forgotten — it allows me to build momentum in my spell and confidence as well. So, on the days I want to master my slower one, the whole session is spent on perfecting it and then to finish off, I bowl two overs of my stock delivery. There are also basics to keep in mind like getting up late (loading after the run-up) and running in an angle, something (WV) Raman sir pointed out when he first took up the coaching role.

Once I get my overs in and am happy with my execution of the slower delivery, it’s into the nets to work on my batting. I’ve changed my set-up at the crease slightly, so I need to consciously remind myself to bat with those changes. It’s easy when you are practicing at a high intensity to sometimes forget the basics or the ‘little things’ that you are also trying to correct.

 

You can read the full article here.