Having played in the 2017 World Cup as a youngster, allrounder Deepti Sharma has progressed in leaps and bounds as a player to become one of the experienced players in the India squad in the ongoing World Cup, Her growth in stature can be understood by how the team entrusts her with the responsibility to not only finish games but also uses her as a floater depending upon the situation.
In the 70 ODIs played thus far, she has scored 1760 runs - including 11 fifties and a century to her credit at an average of 36.66 - and to add to that the 24-year old has also picked up 80 wickets in her seven-year-long career. With 310 rating points against her name, Sharma is one of the leading allrounders in the world and possesses the ability to change the complexion of the game.
In a conversation with Women's CricZone, she spoke about how her role has changed since her ODI debut, the blend of youth and experience in the current Indian team, her role as a death bowler, and a lot more.
Q: You have played in two World Cup finals (World T20 2020 and World Cup 2017) at such a young age. Has that conditioned you for big tournaments and high octane pressure?
During the World Cup 2017, I was under a lot of pressure because it was my first World Cup. As a youngster, I needed support from the senior players and they were there for me. Our skipper Mithali Raj never shied away from backing me up. I tried keeping things simple and wanted to play with the same mindset the way I used to play in the domestic circuit. With time you gain a lot of experience and things become a lot easier, and as a player, you learn to deal with pressure.
Q: You have been asked to take up the mantle of the finisher in the ODI setup. How do you see it as a challenge?
I like playing under pressure. Having led both Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in the domestic circuit, I have dealt with pressure from close quarters. I know how to play run-a-ball as well as accelerate when it's needed. So the games that I have played in the domestic circuit have prepared me really well for the role I am playing at the moment for the Indian team.
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Q: You are someone who plays really well on the on-side. Do you consider it as one of your strengths?
Sweep is one of my scoring shots. But what gives me a lot of confidence is when I middle a defensive shot early on in my innings. It gives me the confidence that I can build a long innings. If you manage to execute your favourite strokes in the nascent stage of your innings, like in my case it's the sweep shot then that adds a lot to your confidence.
Q: The current Indian team has a nice blend of youth and experience. How do you think that is going to contribute towards the team's success?
It is something that is certainly helping the team a lot. Now, being a senior player in the side, I think it is a part of my responsibility to make them (Youngsters) comfortable and create an environment so that they could reach out to me or to any of the other senior players if they are in any doubt or even otherwise.
Q: The Indian team couldn't play any cricket when the pandemic was at its peak. Did that bother you as a cricketer?
Well, the thing that really helped me was that I had my family around me throughout that period. I was able to spend quality time with my family and kept myself occupied doing household chores. But the fact that we weren't getting any cricket to play was also bothering me a lot. I was eagerly waiting for some action and to step on the field as early as possible.
Q: You are someone who also bowls at the death. How big a challenge is that being a spinner?
I have gotten accustomed to bowling with both the new and the semi-new ball and that is something that has helped me a lot. I have been delivering as a death bowler for quite some time now and have gained a lot of experience which makes my job easier while executing as a death bowler.
Q: Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami are two stalwarts of the game and have served Indian cricket wholeheartedly. They are probably playing in their last World Cup. Is there a feeling in the dressing room that you have to win the Cup for them?
Yes, of course. Both Mithali and Jhulan have been our heroes and have inspired us and millions of other girls to take up the sport. They have done a lot for Indian cricket and for world cricket as well. So yes, we will try our level best to win the silverware for them this time around.