May 16, 2020
Interview by Annesha Ghosh
How strange does it feel to be stuck indoors?
It’s quite weird, not just for me but for all of us cricketers. We are so used to touring that we sort of live out of suitcases. We returned to India [after the T20 World Cup final in Melbourne] on March 10, so it’s been nearly two months of staying indoors since.
So where are your suitcases? And did you unpack them at all?
For the first two weeks since coming home, I was still living out of my suitcases because I was too lazy at the time to unpack. I would put the clothes that needed washing into the washing machine, and once they were cleaned, I would put them back into the suitcases because it was easier for me to find them that way. After a certain point, my mumma said, “Come on, it’s time, you have to unpack these.” So I emptied out my drawers, which were all full and swapped the contents of the drawers and the suitcases and put the suitcases on a shelf somewhere. So you can imagine the kind of hard work I have been putting in these days at home (laughs).
You’ve also been really active online and on social media.
Ironically, in many ways, some of us have been more busy during this lockdown than we otherwise are, because every single day we are doing some interview or the other, or some Instagram Live session. Smriti [Mandhana] and I have started our own YouTube chat show, Double Trouble. Every day we are either planning the next episode or shooting it. And there’s also a podcast I do [with JP Duminy], so come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve had a day so far in this period where I have not had anything to do. That’s my life now.
Could you let us in on some behind-the-scenes secrets and bloopers on your show?
I needed an embarrassing number of retakes when we had just started shooting [Double Trouble]. We film our episodes via Zoom and I had to open the show with something along the lines of, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Double Trouble…” and I introduced myself as Smriti Mandhana a few times.
I must say the most fun bit so far has been chatting with [badminton player] PV Sindhu, because we spoke about period pain, Olympics, World Cups and whatnot for nearly an hour and a half, as if we were three long-lost friends catching up after ages, though I had never spoken to her before. We had a blast.
Have you had the opportunity to go to your father’s cricket academy and train there?
Such has been the coronavirus situation, especially in Mumbai, that we have strictly followed all the lockdown rules and deemed it unsafe to go out. So, neither dadda or I have been able to visit the academy in the past couple of months. But we have gone back to practising with the plastic ball. It’s like starting from step one again: he gives me knockings [throwdowns] with a plastic ball in this one narrow lane beside our building in Bandra. My dad is a pro with a plastic ball. He brings his knowledge of swinging the ball both ways from his gully cricket days, so I have to be alert and choose my strokes wisely.
Have you picked up any new skills in this downtime?
Cooking is one of the non-cricketing pursuits I’ve enjoyed. My brother Eli and I end up trying to cook something or the other pretty much every day. Ours are not great dishes but they are good enough.
I have also enjoyed watching stuff on Netflix and Amazon Prime, even though I have never quite been a movie buff. When we are on tour, we hardly get time to do that. But I’ve started watching Money Heist, The Willoughbys, Brooklyn Nine Nine – that’s my favourite – We Are the Millers, and The Last Dance.
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How do you look at this break personally, career-wise?
The lockdown is a challenging time, particularly for those battling the virus on the front lines. But I do feel that this enforced off season has come as a blessing in disguise for me and my team-mates. Mentally I was feeling quite drained after the final. I could feel that emotionally I had reached the limit, because we had already played the tri-series just before the World Cup, a few practice games, but we had kept our focus on the World Cup. Till the final, we were all bubbling with energy, but once it was over, we were exhausted. So this break has helped us switch off and recharge ourselves by being with our family. Whenever the time comes for us to play cricket again, we will go out with a freshness that might help our game and how we approach our training and time on the field.
Have you been in touch with your team-mates during this time?
There’s this BCCI WhatsApp group we are all part of, including [head coach WV] Raman sir and the support staff, so everyone has been in touch with everyone and we are up to date on where things stand at the moment. And there’s always some word of wisdom coming in from Raman sir, which is great. Outside of the group I have my ways of troubling my friends – Smriti, Arundhati [Reddy], Harleen [Deol], Radha [Yadav] – with video calls, general chats and things like that. We are trying to make sure no one misses anyone too much.
More Downtime Diaries here
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