Smriti Mandhana will likely be unavailable for India’s opening match at the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup against Pakistan due to a finger injury, coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said at the pre-match press conference on Saturday.

Captain Harmanpreet Kaur is fit to face Pakistan after shrugging off a shoulder niggle, Kantikar added. Mandhana injured her finger while fielding against Australia in the warm-up match which saw her miss India’s second warm-up against Bangladesh.

Kantikar also spoke about India’s takeaways from the tri-series against South Africa and West Indies, Shikha Pandey’s comeback and Richa Ghosh’s impact.

Edited transcript of the pre-match press conference follows

An update on Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana? How they are doing in terms of fitness?

So Harman is fit to play tomorrow. Smriti has got a finger injury, so she’s still recovering. Most likely she won’t play tomorrow.

Is it a fracture just to confirm?

No, it’s just a finger injury. She’ll be fine for the next game.

What Sri Lankan spinners did yesterday against South Africa, do you reckon the spinners will have a huge role to play in these conditions because it’s pretty hot?

The spinners will have a role. More than heat, the condition of the pitch, because there have been a lot of matches that have taken place here. A lot of T20 cricket has been played. So the pitches might help the spinners. So yes, that’s a fact.

We saw what Richa Ghosh did against Bangladesh. How do you look at her progress? What she did for India in the Under-19 World Cup, is it helping her to become a better cricketer?

She’s an exciting prospect and I think has a good future in front of her. Also, she continues to work hard. So, you know, if all those things go well, she maintains the right attitude, which she has now. The sky’s the limit for her.

How do you look at the role of Shikha Pandey? She’s making a comeback to the Indian team. So the experience and the kind of matches she has played in the past, how big a role will she play in this World Cup?

She’ll play a vital role at some point or the other because experience does count. We have seen it too many times in the past as well. So I think she’s going to make a difference to us. Also, she bats well, which many people don’t know. So I think that works for us.

Is it an advantage having played in South Africa before this tournament?

We won’t want to see it as an advantage. We want to, you know, take every day as it comes, you know, not think too much into those things. But in terms of getting acclimatized to the weather, to the conditions, you know, all the glare, all those things that I guess it does help if you spend a little more time. So we are thankful we got those matches and got that time out in the middle and hopefully it helps us.

What is your team’s strong point?

It’s the teamwork that we have, no doubt about it. We have some great players, batters, bowlers, everything. But as a team, we play well.

How is the team looking forward to the game against Pakistan?

Most of them have played against Pakistan in the past, so they know what all can happen and what the atmosphere is like. Also, it’s one of the privileges of playing international cricket that you play matches like these. So everyone’s up for it. Everyone’s looking forward to it.

What were the takeaways from the tri-series? The conditions were more subcontinental than South African. Are you expecting similar spinning tracks during the tournament? And what was the discussion from the post series and the areas that you wanted to work on before the World Cup?

So there’s been a lot of learnings from that tri-series of what we did well, what we didn’t do well, you know, what we can get better at. And it concerns the role people play, how they look at situations, how they deal with certain circumstances and stuff like that. Because everyone can bat, bowl, field. So it’s the finer points of cricket that are discussed in these type of situations. And the second part of the question about the pitches conditions, East London was quite similar to what we get in India, in some places in India. Cape Town, I’m not really sure. I saw the match yesterday. The pitch looked good. There was some assistance for the spinners, but the pitch was good. So I think it will make for good cricket. And if you play well, if you, you know, do the things you’re supposed to do, I think it’s a fair pitch.

And just to elaborate on the fitness update that you gave at the start, Harmanpreet has been training. Has she been able to bat during the training? How concerning was the injury?

Yes, she has batted for the last two days, today and yesterday. So she’s fine.

And Smriti’s injury is confirmed to be just one match? There’s not a long-term worry about Smriti’s injury?

I believe she’ll play the next one.

Heading into the tournament, you guys have a good momentum from the tri-series. How’s the team atmosphere like before a big game against Pakistan? And how important would it be to get to a good start? And how would it help for the future games?

So the first part, the team is really looking forward to it. And I don’t blame them. As kids, when you’re growing up, you want to be playing World Cups, you want to play against strong teams. You want to play against arch rivals, if you can call them that, you know, all these things you look forward to doing. And a few of them have done it in the past, a few haven’t. So they’re looking forward to it. We feel we are totally prepared for whatever happens tomorrow. And the atmosphere is good. It’s a good, confident team.

Content courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.