Smriti Mandhana with Kiren Rijiju receiving the Arjuna Award. ©PIB_India/Twitter

After breaking records aplenty and setting the international circuit alight with her glorious strokeplay, Smriti Mandhana is preparing for her second stint in the Women’s Cricket Super League in England next month.

Following a month-long fitness camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, the left-hander is now readying herself for the next challenge— a hectic few months at the international level, leading into the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

“It was a good fitness camp,” Mandhana told PTI after receiving the Arjuna Award in New Delhi on Tuesday (July 16). “Finally after a year or two, we got a month off. It was good for us to come back and do a fitness camp. It was much needed because we are going to have a hectic eight months, so we have to get our body prepared for the grind.”

Mandhana, who was won the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint medal for the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year, is not resting on her laurels. The soon-to-be 23-year-old believes she has much to work on. “Me and coach [WV] Raman sir have been discussing quite a bit about my game. How I can become more consistent in T20 cricket, how I can add more power to my game. I still feel I need to improve on that front.”

“You have to improve because other teams are also keeping an eye on you. Adding new shots is not something which I am looking for, I am looking to consistently hit the same length of balls in different places,” she added.

While Mandhana was incredibly consistent through much of the 2018-19 season, the same cannot be said of the team’s performances. After running hot through the group stage of the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean last year, India have since lost seven consecutive T20Is. India’s focus on ‘building a team for the future’ is clear, but the current crop of players really need to step up to the plate.

“Fitness was a major point of discussion after the season ended. Raman sir and we collectively discussed that fitness needs to be better to be a potent T20 side. That thing is being worked out and girls are looking in better shape.”

“Our batting depth has to improve and Raman sir has been speaking to all the batters on the aspect of power hitting. Improved fitness will not only help our power-hitting but will also help our fielding. It is more mental than anything else. That is what Raman sir has been stressing on. He has given the freedom to the batters to express themselves in the middle rather than holding back.”

India’s hiatus from the international circuit will finally end in September when they host South Africa. This will be the first series in what is likely to be a very busy calendar building up to the mega event in Australia beginning February 21.

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