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'Smriti in confident space with her cricket, leadership': RCB coach Luke Williams

Updated on: 23 February,2024 05:19 PM IST  |  Bengaluru
mid-day online correspondent |

In the first WPL season, Mandhana struggled under the weight of this two-fold role, and her batting suffered a considerable dip

'Smriti in confident space with her cricket, leadership': RCB coach Luke Williams

Smriti Mandhana (Pic: AFP)

Smriti Mandhana finding a seamless sync with her twin duty of being the captain and premier batter of the side is intertwined with the fortunes of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the WPL 2024, reckoned their head coach Luke Williams.

In the first WPL season, Mandhana struggled under the weight of this two-fold role, and her batting suffered a considerable dip.

The elegant left-hander could only manage 149 runs from eight matches, averaging a feeble 18 and at a strike-rate of 119.

"She's practising really well. She's in a really confident and happy space with her cricket and the leadership. Obviously, there's responsibility with captaining and opening the batting.

"But she's got plenty of support from the team with lots of experienced seniors to help her and trying to really separate the two roles," said Williams on Friday, a day ahead of RCB's opening WPL 2024 match against UP Warriorz.

The RCB had finished fourth in the five-team league last season, and Williams said under the leadership of Mandhana the team looked much more settled this time.

"I've been fortunate to have spent a fair bit of time with Smriti through my involvement at the Southern Brave (the Hundred team) as an assistant coach and we've had lots of conversations around the learnings and experiences from last (WPL) season both as a team and individual. I think we've really taken on board some of those learnings (from previous year)," he said.

Williams said Mandhana and other senior players in the side have been working with young cricketers in the RCB fold to create a confident atmosphere.

"This time Smriti and others have invested time with our players, and our senior players have been fantastic working with our young players and getting to know them and everyone is really starting to feel really comfortable and confident in the environment. We're looking forward to taking those learnings into this year," said Williams.

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Williams, an experienced T20 coach who has a Women's Big Bash title under his belt with Adelaide Strikers, said this time the RCB has good options in pace and spin departments.

"That was a large part of our auction strategy and around retention. We were trying to get some real variety across all different aspects of the game but bowling certainly was a large part of that. So, we feel like we've got more variety with our pace and spin.

"Hopefully, we will ask some questions to the batters and we have given ourselves some great opportunities with our bowling this tournament,¿ he said.

In that context, the Australian coach said combining pacers Renuka Singh and Kate Cross from England in Power Play could give RCB an edge against their rivals.

"We're really excited to have two bowlers who swing the ball in different directions. But they're both world class swing bowlers. They're going to prove a real handful for the opposition with that swing.

"If you can get an early wicket, we can put pressure on the opposition and it is so important. So, we're certainly looking at different options with how we go about our powerplay bowling. We were really keen to keep working on it and to make a real impact," he added.

RCB had a 10-day camp here in the run-up to the WPL, and Williams said the team managed to tick some boxes during the confab.

"It was about investing a lot of time in particular scenarios that we think they are going to play individually, but also what they may face in the tournament with different game situations, whether it's run rates or whether we think someone's going to bat against spin bowling or their ability to bowl against left-hand batters, we've been quite specific with our targets," said Williams.

(With agency inputs)

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